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Detroit Mercy women's basketball ends season after players, parents accuse coach AnnMarie Gilbert of abuse

Ryan Young
·3-min read
Detroit Mercy coach AnnMarie Gilbert
Detroit Mercy coach AnnMarie Gilbert — seen here leading Virginia Union in 2017 — has been accused of abusing her players, which resulted in the school canceling the rest of the season. (Jay LaPrete/NCAA Photos/Getty Images)

The Detroit Mercy women’s basketball team canceled the rest of its season on Thursday after players and their parents accused coach AnnMarie Gilbert of abuse and mistreatment, according to The Detroit Free Press.

Fourteen players and their parents all signed a letter on Sunday and sent it to athletic director Robert Vowels Jr., detailing numerous abuse allegations surrounding Gilbert, who was hired in April.

“It’s been a nightmare,” a parent told The Detroit Free Press under the condition of anonymity. “Our girls are just not the same.”

Parents, players accuse Detroit Mercy coach of abuse

Parents, per the report, first held a video meeting together and started sharing stories, which is when they realized the situation’s severity. They were, “blown away by the horrific stories of utter disregard for the care and well-being of our student-athletes.”

“It has become painfully obvious that our young women are suffering emotional, mental and physical abuse under the leadership of [Gilbert],” they wrote in the letter, via The Detroit Free Press. “Many of us have encouraged our daughters to seek the help of administration, however the girls are terrified of the retaliation from Coach Gilbert, who has created a hostile environment of fear and isolation. … Some players report that they have never had a battle with mental health until this season.”

Among the allegations, players accused Gilbert of telling them not to tell athletic trainers if they thought they were hurt. She allegedly told the team that “if your bone isn’t sticking out, you need to be giving something.” They were also allegedly told to “disregard or not report” COVID-19 symptoms, told they had to do extra workouts to show their commitment to the team and told that they had to drop classes that interfered with their practice time — even if those classes were required to graduate.

Players were also allegedly told that they were not “committed to the success of the program” if they prioritized academics, and assistant coaches were allegedly “humiliated and harassed in front of players and on the sideline.” Some claimed that Gilbert was trying to force them all to enter the transfer portal, and that they were told not to speak to Vowels.

“You have complaints on teams a lot. That’s not unheard of,” a parent told The Detroit Free Press. “But you have 100 percent participation. I don’t care if you’re the girl at the end of the bench that’s not getting any minutes or a starter that’s getting over 30 minutes, everybody’s got the exact same complaints.”

Detroit Mercy cancels season

Vowels met with players individually Tuesday to discuss the letter and allegations, though reportedly demanded a team meeting with him Wednesday after Gilbert showed up to practice ready to go.

The players met with Vowels Wednesday afternoon, and said they refused to play in their next game on Saturday if Gilbert was still their coach. That’s when the decision to cancel the season was made.

"The health and well-being of our student-athletes is our athletic department's top priority,” an athletic department spokesperson told The Detroit Free Press in a statement. “We have talked with all players and members of our women's basketball program about their concerns. We take them very seriously and will continue to review them closely.

"As we have prioritized the needs of our student-athletes during this challenging academic year, we have decided to suspend the 2020-21 women's basketball season."

The Titans finished the season 1-13, and had lost six straight.

Gilbert was hired in April to replace Bernard Scott. She coached at Eastern Michigan, resigning in 2012 after she received a two-year show-cause due to several NCAA violations. The 52-year-old last spent five seasons at Virginia Union at the Division II level.

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