Cal employee fired after WNBA star's, multiple former athletes' claims of sexual harassment upheld in Title IX investigation

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A Cal athletic department employee has been fired after <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/wnba/players/5065/" data-ylk="slk:Layshia Clarendon">Layshia Clarendon</a>’s, multiple other student-athletes’ claims of sexual harassment and abuse were “substantiated” in an internal investigation on Thursday. (Getty Images)
A Cal athletic department employee has been fired after Layshia Clarendon’s, multiple other student-athletes’ claims of sexual harassment and abuse were “substantiated” in an internal investigation on Thursday. (Getty Images)

An internal Title IX investigation by the University of California-Berkeley backed up claims of sexual violence and harassment by an athletic department employee who has since been fired, ESPN reported on Thursday.

Mohamed Muqtar, who worked in the Cal athletic department for nearly 25 years, was fired on May 11 after being placed on investigatory leave in December. Multiple former female student-athletes, including WNBA All-Star Layshia Clarendon, all claim to have been abused by the 61-year-old, dating back nearly two decades.

Clarendon, who currently plays for the Atlanta Dream, filed a civil lawsuit in January, which started the investigation into Muqtar. Clarendon claimed that Muqtar, the assistant director for student services at Cal, invited her to his home when she was 18 and sexually assaulted her after walking in on her while she was using the bathroom.

“Our primary goal as an athletic department is to support and provide an outstanding student-athlete experience, and it pains us to hear about these actions by one of our employees who they turned to as a trusted adviser,” the athletic department said in a statement. “The findings described in the report are appalling, wholly unacceptable and have no place in our department, on campus or anywhere.”

Muqtar told ESPN that he had “no comment” about the matter in January, and did not return calls made by them this week.

More than a dozen former student-athletes spoke to ESPN about their experiences with Muqtar.

Tess McCoy, who played volleyball from 1999-2004, remembered being warned about Muqtar, and described allegations of “inappropriate sexual discussions and late-night calls.”

From ESPN:

One night, McCoy says, she even found herself at Muqtar’s apartment. When he began rubbing her shoulders, she immediately left without saying anything. She never reported the interaction.

Another former athlete, who remained anonymous, described an incident in his car after she had been taken “under his wing” for several months.

From ESPN:

Then, one evening while he was giving her a ride in his car, he allegedly began moving his hand toward his crotch and said, “I think about these female athletes, and my d— gets hard,” according to the former student. She took this as an overture and immediately got out of the car.

“His M.O. was to prey on those who were vulnerable,” Kristy Patterson, a former swimmer at Cal who gave up the sport after three shoulder surgeries after one season, told ESPN.

Patterson wrote a letter to Cal’s senior associate athletic director of compliance Jay Larson last month, who is also Muqtar’s former supervisor, detailing his alleged behavior toward her.

“He played puppet-master with personal relationships I had with other fellow student-athletes,” Patterson wrote, according to ESPN. “He set up his prey by using other athletes as bait, falsely spreading rumors, upset those involved and would strike when the chaos level was just right. … He would call me late at night and ask me to give him details about how I liked to have sex, what I like to have done to me, and details about my partner and their body parts.

“This entire situation should be an embarrassment to the UC Regents, and the University of Cal athletic department. Failing to recognize inappropriate relationships with athletes by its employees and failing to listen to prior complaints about Mohamed is completely unacceptable.”

Per the ESPN report, many former athletes who have spoke out “suggested” that there are more current and former Cal athletes with similar experiences with Muqtar who simply aren’t ready to speak out yet.

Clarendon’s civil lawsuit has been dismissed by an Almaeda County Superior Court judge because the statute of limitations had run out. Clarendon plans to appeal that ruling.

“I don’t want it to be real,” Clarendon told ESPN. “I don’t want to acknowledge it. I even remember how hard it was to write those words: I’m a sexual assault survivor. These words still don’t feel like my own. And this is the hardest thing I’ve had to do.”

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