Former Cal running back Joe Echema is suing the Redwood City Fire Department for racial discrimination. Echema became a firefighter after his short stint in the NFL, which included the Oakland Raiders.
Joe Echema was known as Adimchinobe “Joe” Echemandu while he played at Cal and had 1195 yards on 238 carries in 2003 for the Bears. In 2004, he was drafted in the 7th round by the Cleveland Browns.
Read more about his lawsuit below, from The Mercury News:
“Redwood City has a responsibility to promote an equal and inclusive fire service. Bias is something we all have and all experience. However, Redwood City and Redwood City Fire Department cannot continue to ignore bias and discriminatory treatment of personnel or the community we serve.”
Specifically, Echema told KPIX (Channel 5) he has faced harassment, including being sent sexually explicit pictures.
“I was harassed continuously because of ethnic background as an African American immigrant,” Echema said.
Echema joined the Redwood City Fire Department after a four-year NFL career that consisted of 19 games. Six of those came with the Raiders in 2006 and 2007. He has worked as a fireman in Redwood City for the last 10 years.
Among Echema’s complaints, according to KPIX, are that he’s had supervisors use “the N-word” and that a captain told him Black Lives Matter protesters “need to be shot.”
“I know the nation is captivated with what happens to George Floyd and police brutality, but a lot of the same things in the police department is embedded in the fire department,” Echema said.
Echema is represented by Na’il Benjamin, who played football at Cal from 1993-96.
“They can acknowledge that yes, Mr. Echema received a text message that had a racial slur. That can’t deny it. It’s undeniable. But what they can deny, and what can act as if it doesn’t exist, is the overall climate that he’s dealing with,” Benjamin told KPIX.
The news release issued by the Benjamin Law Group alleges, “The Redwood City Fire Department leadership is itself under fire after reports of using racial slurs when discussing citizens in Redwood City and fellow firefighters.”