CHICAGO — A former athletic trainer for the White Sox is alleging in a lawsuit that he was fired by the team because of his sexual orientation, age and disability.
The actions of White Sox general manager Rick Hahn and the club, according to the lawsuit filed Monday in Cook County, caused Brian Ball “significant emotional and monetary damage, as well as damage to his reputation and name.” The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.
In a team statement, the White Sox described Ball’s allegations as “baseless” and promised to vigorously defend the organization’s reputation.
“It is extremely disappointing that a former colleague, who was supported, developed and promoted over two decades, chose to attack the club in this way,” the team said Tuesday. “It is also surprising to many who know Brian, and supported him throughout his career, to read the allegations included in his lawsuit.”
The White Sox said Ball’s dismissal “was based on his performance and did not run afoul of any of the protections afforded to employees under the law.”
Ball, now 50, was hired by Chicago in September 2000 to serve as an assistant trainer alongside head trainer Herm Schneider. Ball was on the athletic training staff when the team won the World Series in 2005.
According to the lawsuit, White Sox management, including executive vice president Ken Williams, Hahn and assistant general manager Jeremy Haber, learned in February 2018 that Ball was gay. The suit doesn’t specify how they became aware of Ball’s sexual orientation.
When Schneider’s retirement was announced that December, Ball was promoted to head athletic trainer.
In February 2020, according to the suit, Ball was told by Haber and a senior medical adviser with the team that his position was being “altered” and he would serve in more of an administrative role.
Ball “was told that he should not be giving any treatments to the players but directing the other trainers to do so,” according to the lawsuit.
In July 2020, Ball was beaten by two men and his car was stolen. Following an examination by a team physician, he was placed on medical leave.
According to the suit, Hahn made “continuous statements” to athletic training personnel in September 2020 that Ball had a gambling, alcohol or drug addiction that was related to the carjacking. The suit said none of those accusations “were or are true.”
Ball was told by Hahn on Oct. 26, 2020, that he had been dismissed, according to the lawsuit. He received a severance package that was identical to the provisions of his two-year contract with the team that was slated to run through October 2021.
Ball alleges he was contacted by a “White Sox management level representative” in December 2020, referred to as individual “A” in the suit. He was told his termination was because of his sexual orientation, based on a “knowledgeable White Sox senior management representative disclosure,” according to the lawsuit.