On 7 August 2016, 19 year old Marisa Dick will become Trinidad and Tobago’s first ever gymnast to participate in an Olympic Games. But the cost of her achievement could be the financial ruin and permanent loss of reputation of the Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation (TTGF) and, in particular, its president David Marquez, first vice-president Akil Wattley, second vice-president Ricardo Lue Shue and his wife and assistant treasurer Donna Lue Shue.
And, although not named as defendants, the behaviour of Dick and, in particular, her mother, Hannifer Dick, will also be explored over the course of the court action. Hannifer is accused of instigating unfair treatment towards 20 year old Trinidad and Tobago gymnast, Thema Williams, so as to benefit her own daughter.
Williams officially filed suit on Thursday 27 July against the TTGF, Marquez, Wattley and the Lue Shues at the High Court of Justice of Port of Spain for in excess of TT$11.3 million for damages borne from their controversial decision to axe her in favour of her alternate, Dick, for the Rio Test Event on 17 April 2016.
Williams qualified for the Olympic Test Event by bettering Dick at the Glasgow 2015 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships to secure the sole spot available to Trinidad and Tobago.
But, on the eve of her final qualifying competition in Rio, the TTGF controversially withdrew Williams and inserted Dick to compete in her place.
Marquez claimed Williams was injured and pointed to an email from her coach, John Geddert, as justification. But the athlete, coach and TTGF head of delegation all insisted she was fit to compete while she was also allegedly cleared to take part by a doctor in Rio.
Williams’ legal team of senior counsel Martin Daly SC, advocate attorney Keith Scotland and instructing attorney Reza Ramjohn will try to convince the court that the gymnastics officials wrongfully and maliciously gave her hard-earned “opportunity of a lifetime” to Dick.
Whatever the eventual decision by the assigned judge, Williams’ Statement of Case suggests that the gymnastics quartet will endure an unprecedented courtroom interrogation for local sport administrators, which will scrutinise the motivation behind their decision and the potential impact on the athlete in question.
Contracts, emails, phone calls and even text messages were submitted as evidence on Thursday, as Williams’ attorneys threw down the gauntlet. The TTGF and the four officials will be defended by Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj SC and Ronnie Bissessar.
The case itself was filed as a breach of contract/duty and tort by the four officials and the local sporting body. But the language of the document itself was even more damning and suggested that the financial wellbeing of the administrators is not the extent of their problems in this matter.
As sport fans worldwide prepare to see the best athletes on the planet in action, Marquez, Wattley and the Lue Shues stand accused of scheming to deny 20 year old Williams of her chance to compete for no reason but victimisation, hatred and/or illegitimate bias towards Dick.
“[David Marquez, Akil Wattley, Ricardo Lue Shue and Donna Lue Shue] (or any two or more of them together) conspired and combined together wrongfully and with the sole or predominant intention of injuring [the dream of Thema Williams] and/or causing loss to [Williams] by depriving her of the opportunity to qualify for the 2016 Olympics and/or by wrongfully and/or in the circumstances set out at paragraph 19 above promoting Marisa [Dick] at the expense of [Williams].
“The motivation of the [gymnastics officials] was improper, wholly unreasonable, unfair, irrational and represented unadulterated opportunism to further a collateral purpose of victimisation and hatred of [Williams] and/or an illegitimate bias towards Marisa and/or a breach of the contractual obligations and/or duties owed to [Williams] by the Defendants or any of them.”
Williams’ legal team argued that the gymnastics officials breached a written contract and violated the trust of the young gymnast and their responsibility to be fair and impartial in their duties, by withdrawing her without allowing the Tots and Tumblers athlete, Geddert or head of delegation Nicole Fuentes—or any combination of the three—the opportunity to put forward a case before their decision.
Incidentally, there is dispute over Fuentes’ role in Rio. Marquez initially addressed her as the TTGF’s head of delegation but subsequently stated that he acted as HOD despite remaining in Trinidad.
And, crucially, Williams’ attorneys claimed that Marquez, Wattley and the Lue Shues—or any combination of the four—had placed themselves in “positions of conflict of interest” due to previously expressed partisan positions against their client which, arguably, contaminated their decision making process.
The case of bias against the quartet hinges on five specific points:
On or about 8 October 2015, Marquez, via email, suggested that Geddert’s wife be allowed to join Williams’ coaching staff so as to superficially address a perceived advantage to Dick going into the 2015 World Gymnastics competition. The TTGF president suggested “by way of encouragement” that the Glasgow tournament would be Williams’ last.
Disadvantaged or not, Williams placed 59th in Glasgow, which was a record for a Trinidad and Tobago gymnast and 18 places higher than Dick.
Williams’ accomplishment was met with insult, as Wattley derided her as “unsportsmanlike” and claimed that her attitude embarrassed the country and she “should be dealt with”.
Wattley’s perceived character assault on Williams was done, according to her attorneys, “at the instigation of [Dick’s mother, Hannifer Dick] and/or other persons connected with Marisa.”
Williams’ attorneys further stated that Ricardo Lue Shue, a former TTGF president, had acted previously as Dick’s coach and travelled to Rio within 24 hours of participating in a decision to axe the qualified athlete without prior consultation with Williams, Geddert or Fuentes—or any combination of the three.
Lue Shue (R), arguably, had a conflict of interest from his relationship with Dick while he personally benefitted from the decision. And his wife, Donna Lue Shue, solicited votes for Dick for an award, last December, when she referred to her as “my gymnast Marisa Dick”. Lue Shue (D) also referred to Dick, who was born and bred in Canada, as “my gymnast from Canada”.
Lue Shue (D) was also involved in the decision to replace Williams and personally called around to procure votes to have Dick usurp the accredited gymnast.
The defendants (or any two or more of them together) also instructed Dick, according to the Statement of Case, to travel to Rio in order to take Williams’ place prior to and/or without communicating with either Williams, Geddert or Fuentes—or any combination of the three.
“[The TTGF, Marquez, Wattley and the Lue Shues] conspired and combined together to deprive the Claimant of the opportunity to qualify for the 2016 Olympics.”
Williams’ attorneys suggested the five defendants further demonstrated that they were acting in bad faith by ignoring their client’s attempt to appeal the decision or seek arbitration.
“[Williams] did not receive even the courtesy of an acknowledgment of her dispute from the [TTGF], another example of its arbitrary and high-handed behaviour toward the Claimant.”
Williams’ attorney listed 16 points as particulars of loss and damage to the aggrieved gymnast, which included:
- Loss of the valuable opportunity to be an Olympian and the promotional benefits of international exposure and/or advertising contracts, product endorsements, related business engagements such as coaching, lecturing and motivational speaking, enhanced by: being Trinidad and Tobago’s first gymnast, the “current high interest in gymnastics of colour created by the recent entry and success of female gymnasts of colour in recent Olympics” and being the only English-speaking Caribbean gymnast at the Rio Olympics who is born in the country they are representing.
- Deprivation of the Olympic opportunity made more grave by: Williams’ age at the time of the TTGF officials’ wrongful acts, the relationship of the opportunity to the four-year Olympic cycle; the limited age beyond which gymnasts do not normally perform internationally; her lifetime of preparation to qualify for a once in a lifetime opportunity; the wrongful acts of the gymnastics officials which were calculated to provide someone else with an opportunity that rightfully belonged to Williams; the potential for Marquez, Wattley and the Lue Shues—or any combination of the four—to realise value and benefits for themselves as a result of their wrongful acts; the arbitrary and high-handed manner which the Defendants and/or any of them conducted themselves in the discharge of their powers over Williams.
- Psychological damage, mental anguish, distress and associated stress related and/or companion to the pecuniary loss of opportunity set out above.
- Damage to Williams’ reputation, humiliation and embarrassment both nationally and internationally particularly having regard to the predominance of social media, such damage also related to and/or companion to the said pecuniary loss.
- Given her expectation of the opportunity to become an Olympian, loss of the opportunity of a four-year gymnastics scholarship to Michigan State University in 2014 valued at approximately US$216,460 (TT$1,385,384).
Williams is claiming damages for breach of contract and/or breach of duty; damages for the torts of conspiracy and/or procuring breach of contract and/or unlawful interference with her contractual relations; aggravated and/or exemplary damages; interest; costs; and such further or other relief as to the Court seems just.
The Thema Williams Case
Claimant: Thema Williams
Legal Team: Martin G Daly SC, Keith Scotland, Reza Ramjohn
First Defendant: Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation (TTGF)
Second Defendant: David Marquez
Third Defendant: Akil Wattley
Fourth Defendant: Ricardo Lue Shue
Fifth Defendant: Donna Lue Shue
- The Second Defendant in or about October 8, 2015, at a time when the Claimant had not yet participated in the Glasgow Championships were seeking to solicit the wife of the Claimant’s coach as an additional coach for the Claimant purportedly to address a perceived disadvantage while at the same time expressing the view, by way of encouragement to agree to the solicitation that Glasgow Championships would most likely be the Claimant’s last competition.
- The Third Defendant in or about November 2015 had declared the Claimant to be unsportsmanlike and expressed his opinion to the other Defendants or some of them that matters concerning the Claimant and her coach’s attitude should be dealt with in person and had embarrassed the country and/or had done so at the instigation of the mother of and/or other persons connected with Marisa.
- The Fourth Defendant was, prior to the events described above, the assistant coach of Marisa, a fact known to the other Defendants and/or some of them and/or attended the Rio Test Event in the capacity of coach to Marisa within 24 hours of participating in the decision to withdraw the Claimant from the Rio Test Event without any prior notification to the Claimant and/or her coach and/or her therapist.
- The Fifth Defendant in or around December 2015 solicited votes for an award for Marisa, referring to her as as “my gymnast Marisa Dick” and on or around the 15th or 16th April 2016, although in a conflict of interest position, set about contacting members of the First Defendant’s Council, whom she knew were also in positions of conflict of interest, to procure their votes for Marisa to replace the Claimant at the Rio Test Event. Such persons included but were not necessarily limited to the other Defendants or some of them.
- The Defendants (or any two or more of them together) caused an instruction to be delivered to Marisa for her to travel to Rio in order to take the Claimant’s place at the Rio Test Event prior to and/or without communicating with either the Claimant and/or her coach and/or her therapist and/or designated head of delegation.
- The Claimant reserves the right to add to these particulars following discovery in the action.
Particulars of Loss and Damage:
1. Loss of the valuable opportunity to be an Olympian which containing the promotional benefits of international exposure, advertising contracts and/or product endorsements and/or related business engagements such as coaching, lecturing and motivational speaking, enhanced by the following circumstances:
- The historic circumstance of the first female gymnast from Trinidad and Tobago to compete in women’s gymnastics at that level;
- The current high interest in gymnastics of colour created by the recent entry and success of female gymnasts of colour in recent Olympics.
- The additional high interest in gymnastics in the Caribbean created by three Jamaican gymnasts, two of whom are female, providing Jamaica with representation in Olympic gymnastics for the first time.
- Among the current crop of the English speaking Caribbean gymnasts, the Claimant being uniquely among them born in the country she is representing.
2. Deprivation of the opportunity made more grave by:
- The Claimant’s age at the time of the Defendants’ wrongful acts;
- The relationship of the opportunity to the four-year Olympic cycle;
- The limited age beyond which gymnasts do not normally perform internationally;
- The Claimant’s lifetime of preparation, practice and training to qualify for what is essentially a once in a lifetime opportunity to be an Olympian;
- The wrongful acts of the Defendants calculated to provide someone else with an opportunity of a lifetime that rightfully belonged to the Claimant for which she prepared, completed and earned.
- The potential for the Second and/or the Third and/or the Fourth and/or for the Fourth and/or Fifth Defendants to realise value and benefits for themselves as a result of their wrongful acts.
- The arbitrary and high-handed manner which the Defendants and/or any of them conducted themselves in the discharge of their powers over and/or their duties to the Claimant.
3. Psychological damage, mental anguish, distress and associated stress related and/or companion to the pecuniary loss of opportunity set out above.
4. Damage to the Claimant’s reputation, humiliation and embarrassment both nationally and internationally particularly having regard to the predominance of social media, such damage also related to and/or companion to the said pecuniary loss.
5. Given her expectation of the opportunity to become an Olympian, loss of the opportunity to proceed with an offer the the award of a four-year gymnastics scholarship at the prestigious Michigan State University to fill an open spot immediate for the fall semester 2014. This scholarship was worth approximately $216,460 USD ($1,385,384 TTD).
- Damages for breach of contract and/or breach of duty;
- Damages for the torts of conspiracy and/or procuring breach of contract and/or unlawful interference with her contractual relations;
- Aggravated and/or exemplary damages;
- Such further or other relief as to the Court seems just.
Tuition and Fees: US$37,912.00
Room and Board: US$10,412.00
Books and Supplies: US$1,068.00
Personal Expenses: US$2,648.00
Total Per Year: US$54,115.00
Total over 4 years: US$216,460.00 (TT$1,385,384.00)
Aggravated Damages: TT$10 million
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Marissa lacks class and morals she and her mom. They both know what they did to undermine thema and hope that thema gets the justice she deserves… do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do
Is this about sex ?Ah missing something.Did u say withdrew Williams and inserted Dick or is Lasana who say that?Lord we Trini’s eh easy.
“But, on the eve of her final qualifying competition in Rio, the TTGF controversially withdrew Williams and inserted Dick…” @Wired868 Oh Lasana, your literary gift is rather amusing…!
Still Waiting to find out the next side of the story.
It good, she should win every penny and drag their names through the mud in the process. It’s about time somebody stands up for their rights among these corrupt ‘officials’.
I don’t care for T&t in the Olympics but it’s NOT Marisa’s fault Thema isn’t in the Olympics you all do know that right??? Its the committee so I don’t see your point in BLAMING Marisa for what the dumb committee did… An Thema is acting like a spoiled brat. Like omg someone at least representing the T&T(tho she isn’t truly a trinidadian) T&T probably ain’t getting any medals here but at least we’re there. Your beef is with the ttgf NOT Marisa! Stop hating the girl!!!!
you have the rug dragged out from below you and you didn’t even see it coming,see how you will react.I was watching an interview with Thema she did since she was a child,this has always been her life long dream,like any other athlete to represent their Country. Dick is all about her move according to her,what she invented on the balance beam.
I don’t care for either one of them but it still isn’t Marisa’s fault that Thema got axed!!!!! Plain and simple!!! On a serious note to me, what would’ve been the bigger person type of thing to do is that if Marisa had let Thema take win an go to rio because she was acting like a cry baby. Just like you said any athlete would be thrilled to go for the Olympics so I’m guessing that’s why Marisa didnt do that also legal issues maybe. As for Marisa being all about herself well idk i don’t follow her life or thema’s life so I really can’t speak upon that. People are missing the real point though, even though she isn’t truly a trini at least t&t is there in the Olympics one of the biggest sporting event in the world but I guess politics has blinded people from that. I’m not supporting this country but at least I’m happy the country is being represented. People have their own opinions and I respect that but blaming someone for another’s stupidity& cock-up is wrong!!
Got bored reading this whole thing. Like I said I don’t care for either one also I’m not even supporting the country so this topic doesn’t matter to me anymore.. I just wrote my thoughts on it. Now I’m done 🙂 you ladies enjoy your night.
You didnt read where her mother was part of the coaching body like you aint read the whole thing go and read it again..smh Dick not even supposed to be there they let Thema do all the work it real sad..
Are you for real? Get the facts and try to understand what having integrity, honour and decency is all about. Right is right and wrong is WRONG! How Thema was treated is, oh so very wrong. 2016 and the racism and discrimination continues unabated. Shameful!
Sad we no love for your country..crushing someones dreams ,hard work and dedication is no joking matter..A once in a lifetime opportunity taken away. This is the reason we have laws and people have constitutional rights sue them they cant go in any other country and do they nonsense but want to come here make an example out of them.
May the divine forces mete out justice in Favor of our own who worked her ass off to go to the games and was sidelined by these usurpers of Thema Williams whole young life and carrier goal..hope she gets more than the 11 Million..sorry Thema..know your quest from loooong time in the Vale.dick fall,dick dead..and dick gone thru.
At the end of the day after all the analyzing and commenting…doh bury yuh head in the sand cause the naked truth stands out…..Its about the lighter skin tone……Nuff said
Many were called and Thema was chosen but replaced with a center soft Dick that couldn’t stand only wobble for the whole world to see.
Aye !!!!!!!that dick not even from Trinidad but wtmc. ????
Nice. People who hv to learn about integrity the hard way.
Clearly, it was a ‘dick move’ by Marisa Dick. Now, the chickens have come home to roost and I hope the Dick family choke on the lawsuit. I hope your time in Rio was worth it, Marisa? 🙂
thema will not be watching the olympics this year, and in support i will not be watching…
I wish Marisa does well you know. I really hope she goes and blows all our minds away because the amount of money the TTGF will have to pay Thema, I hope it was all worth it. After all, her gymnastics career will be over once the Olympics is over.
She is worth even more!
I HOPE IT DOES….RIGHT IN THIS COUNTRY ITS A LOT OF BIAS & RACISM….LET THEM LEARN THE HARD WAY …TO THEM THAT WHOLE SORRY LOT I SAY …. ” TAKE THAT”.
#TeamThema all the way
Sue their rasses. Its called getting EVEN. Overshadow my foot. Their actions has many filthy shadows
Excellent! I wish Thelma successfully sues them and screws everyone over.
How we reach here again? She showed her breast or something on some social media?
They both did….thema picture was in support of either breast cancer or awareness whilst dick picture was for fun….so it was thrown out the door and they decided to find some other reason which was sufficient grounds for a lawsuit because it was cleary biased
Thema wishing you every bit of sucess in your case against the TTGF,and hoping this can be a lesson to all our sporting bodies about fairness and doing what is right when it comes to our athletes
More people need to follow Thelma’s example.
Stand up and fight against ingrained corruption and bobol.
This “everything is for sale” shit has to stop!
Down with the usurper’s cohorts!! Off with their heads! #BetterhaveThemamoney
I hopes Thema gets every single penny in this case… Them idiots them is ah bunch ah con artist and money hungers…. #teamthema @wedohwhanodick.
I like to say “let all things be done decently and in good order” but that didn’t happen for Thema. The behaviour of TTGF officials in collusion with the Dick camp was blatantly prejudiced, biased and ugly to its core. Stand up for yourself Thema… #TeamThema all the way! #ourgirl
I see she said she isnt watching the olympics…maybe she will mybe she wont…but it will be a tough two weeks for her…maybe the toughest…thinking to yourself all now you should be in camp preparing for the biggest stage of your life. Instead you in your living room…here…brutal.
Exactly!! 11 million not enough
well after what happened Ms Dick making an early exit from`Rio am sure Ms William must be still watching re-runs of it.
It never ceases to amaze me that we condemn hatred and vile behaviour by exhibiting the same things at others. Smh.
They look down on bandits drivers and we see how lawless they are..isn’t this the same thing here..White collar lawlessness. This shit has been going on for years no regards for fairness. ..l agree with every comment against these people. ..you can do as much as you like but not as long as you like….Amen
when she rained on thema parade … only thema know how it felt
No matter the outcome I am glad this is happening. It will hopefully put all other sports governing bodies on notice. So keep ch nonsense hoes on with athletes that we sometimes never comes to the fore……… It’s a sad day when it has to come to this but o am still glad it is happening
That’s a secondary purpose. To show that they need to act fairly correctly and not according to their their own motives
I dont care if Trinidad get any medals at tall at the olympics,i jealous right now for Thema i want Marissa Dick to fail want her to fall flat on her face I HaATE.
let the law decide…people are being racial and seeing this as a trini-canadian versus trini matter. ho many other athletes representing or have represented us were not resident trini’s…ms universe??? our footballers???
I think it’s more of an ethical rather than a race issue. They’re both black.
you know that no one benefits from this …right. The federation has no money to pay damages. Not so sure about ethical issue. It is really about how decisions are made in an organisation and whether the change is selection had ulterior motives… all the supporters of Thema are claiming a bias, that Ms Dick was chosen because the Federation had an ulterior motive…
Most of those so called athletes and ms universe individuals represented trinidad and tobago from the onset of their careers.
Indeed Prakash Dhanrajh Transparency is the issue at hand. Sadly this is an issue that plagues our island
Racial how? If it’s trini v Canada wouldn’t it be a nationalist issue? Secondly, pageant contestants and footballers are more than likely 100% born and bred trini. The reason birth is even an issue is because of the ethical conflagrations of this issue. Thema was the better athlete and from the onset of preparations for Rio a clear bias was made public in favour of the lesser skilled athlete. This is ethical! If Marisa earned the spot this would not have been an issue. They’re both black so race does not come into this at all.
I Hate Canada the bitch is not a Trinidadian.
All I want to say to Thema’s legal team: “Bust! Their! A$$es!”
God don’t sleep !! I am glad Thema is suing them and she ill win her case too.
I’m sorry… I cannot consider Dick to be a Trinidadian in the first place but it hurts even more that a Trini-born with much more talent and ability is being disenfranchised by her own people for what? I’ve been on the receiving end of this kind of discrimination before, so my prayers are with Thema. She will receive justice.
It’s not that Canada doesn’t want her, the pool of talent in Canada compared to Trinidad is significantly greater. So for you to even make that Canadian team, you have to be extraordinary
Either way… she didn’t earn the position
She didn’t even make the Trinidad team and allyuh talking about Canada? Lol. (Teasing just a little).
Why cant she be a trini?
Leandra Richards was Birchall a Trinidadian when his goal against Bahrain helped us go to the World Cup?
He was also keeping a “True Trini” out of the team……I am not condoning what happened to Thema Williams but I can’t agree with the Marisa Dick is not a “true trini” argument
I didn’t say she can’t be. I just don’t consider her to be one… Canada don’t want her to represent them even though she was born there so she’s taking a free ride on our tax payer’s dollars… which is fine… but not at the expense of someone who is proven to be more talented.
Once your heart not here u aint. Sorry Leandra u right
Nigel Noel I’m not saying that she can’t be. I (me personally who thinks that contemporary sports is an extension of the bs of capitalism)said I don’t consider her to be one… and it doesn’t change the FACT that she did not qualify for the position… if she had at least beaten Thema, I wouldn’t care… but the fact that she didn’t even come close is really like rubbing salt in the wound
Leandra Richards why does questioning her “Trinidadness” even enter the discussion. In my opinion it is irrelevant!
Well it’s a good thing that’s YOUR opinion Nigel Noel
Leandra Richards if i ever meet you one day i would gladly give you my whole salary!!!!! You couldnt have said it better
Nigel Noel Leandra made so many relevant points,You choose to harp on that one point,SMH….
And it wasn’t a full team of foreign born players for the football in 2006. These two cases don’t compare
No one cares about his shit…
She might not win an Olympic medal but some good cash could not be bad
Sue they ass.
Bet those fools did not expect a lawsuit of this magnitude. But when all is said and done it does nothing to mend 20 year old Thema psychological damage! After she worked so hard to make it to Rio, outperformed at the task meted out to her and came in nearly 20 spots above dick you do her this. Dick could not get into the Olympics on a Canadian ticket so Mrs senior Dick decided to influence these callous people to deny Thema. Wicked people you will pay for what you have done to her and for smashing her dreams!
only in Trinidad you can come and cheat someone out of a spot they worked so hard for ….complete madness how we completely ignore our own .. i hope she wins and let this be an example to other to know that God don’t like ugly …if something isnt for you …leave it alone
She does not deserve a cent
U gooo Thema..TEAM THEMA. U ROCK.
I hope she wins them.
I think the figure is quite low. I hope they all pay dearly. Lasana dont waist energy on dumb ass idiots. I was wondering what was happening with this case thanks for informing us.
I agree. Too low!
11.8 million is too low? I see bias will destroy logic.
Ridiculous. I don’t believe they expect to be awarded the total. It’s wholly at the discretion of the judge and frankly while emotional damage can’t be measured in money, 10M in punitive damages is quite a lot.