Radford & Keebaugh’s Dan Werner has been joined by renowned civil rights litigator Ben Crump in a racial discrimination lawsuit filed against the Savannah College of Arts & Design (SCAD) on behalf of an African-American fishing coach who was terminated after bringing issues of racial discrimination to his administration’s attention. The full press release is below. A copy of the judicial complaint is here.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 10, 2020
Attorneys Ben Crump and Daniel Werner Sue Prominent Arts College on Behalf of Former Coach for Racial Discrimination and Retaliation
Isaac Payne was routinely referred to as the N-word and threatened by students
Savannah, GA – Renowned civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and Daniel Werner today filed
a federal lawsuit alleging racial discrimination and retaliation by the Savannah College of Art
and Design (SCAD) against a former head coach.
The suit alleges that Isaac Payne, a prominent African American competitive fisherman,
former head men’s and women’s fishing coach at Savannah College of Art and Design
(SCAD), a magna cum laude SCAD graduate, and United States Marine, experienced the
discriminatory acts during his tenure as head coach of the men’s and women’s fishing teams
when he was referred to as the N-word and threatened by students.
Crump is known for his representation of the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor,
Trayvon Martin, and others, and has been dubbed in the Washington Post as “Black
America’s Attorney General.” Dan Werner is a recipient of Public Justice’s 2015 Trial Lawyer
of the Year Award for his work on a case for workers who were victims of human trafficking
that resulted in a $14 million jury verdict.
While at SCAD, Mr. Payne – who coached an all-white team and was the only head coach of
any athletic team at SCAD who was not white – was repeatedly subjected to acts of racism:
● A student on the team frequently referred to Mr. Payne as a “(N-word)” and a “piece
of sh*t (N-word)”, statements other team members greeted with laughter and
● Mr. Payne was threatened by another student on the team who flew a large
Confederate flag on his truck, bragged about carrying a firearm to protect himself
from Black people in Savannah, threatened physical violence against LGBT people in
Savannah, and wore a large holstered knife to a meeting with Mr. Payne.
● Mr. Payne was the subject of a group of students’ “burn book,” a shared book used
for writing unpleasant information about others.
When Mr. Payne and students reported the team members’ abuse, acts of racism, and
threats to SCAD administrators, rather than disciplining any of the students and protecting Mr. Payne’s physical safety and emotional well-being, SCAD fired Mr. Payne and hired a white man to replace him. SCAD punished Mr. Payne for seeking protection of his fundamental civil rights.
“I join Isaac Payne and attorney Dan Werner in the fight for justice against SCAD because
there is no room in our society to tolerate acts of blatant racism, including calling your coach
the N-word, bringing a knife to a meeting with him, and creating a ‘burn book’ with his name
in it,” said Attorney Crump. “African Americans have been facing intimidation tactics by
White supremacists who burned crosses in front of their homes and churches for more than
a century, and we cannot allow this type of racism to flourish in our educational institutions.
SCAD may not have started the fire so to speak, but it certainly fanned the flames of racism
when it fired Isaac Payne instead of punishing the students who committed the acts of
“I am filing this lawsuit against SCAD to enforce my civil rights,” Mr. Payne said. “As a
Marine, I vowed to protect and serve my country and its people without regard to race.
Today, I fight for my dignity, my family’s honor, and the civil rights of the Black faculty, staff,
and students at SCAD. They deserve protection against the blatant and systemic racism
permeating their campus.”
Attorney Werner of the law firm Radford & Keebaugh added, “SCAD holds itself out as
condemning racism and promoting diversity. Yet SCAD sent a message to its students and
employees that Black lives do not matter when it refused to address students’ racism and
instead fired Mr. Payne. After eight years of honorably serving our nation as a Marine, after
graduating from SCAD with honors, and after three years of honorably serving students as a
head coach, Isaac Payne is honoring this nation’s civil rights legacy by raising his voice
against racism and discrimination at one of Georgia’s most well-known educational and
SCAD routinely forces all employees to sign an agreement submitting all disputes to secret
arbitration in an attempt to sweep discrimination under the rug, Werner said. Although SCAD has attempted to silence Mr. Payne by trying to force him into secret arbitration, he is filing this lawsuit publicly in federal court to enforce his civil rights and, as part of his case, is asking the judge to find that will argue that the arbitration agreement is unenforceable. He is mindful that arbitration has been a legal tactic used by the powerful to silence Black voices, and the voices of other workers suffering discrimination. As a former employee, he refuses to be silenced.