Thursday, April 20, 2006

"Pulling a Penn State," or the not-so-fine art of refusing to hold coaches accountable for their actions

Once again, a little basketball and lesbi-phobia blogging…

A new catch phrase may have just entered the sports world. Coined by USA Today columnist Christine Brennan, the phrase to “pull a Penn State” may soon come to denote a university that ignores problems in its sports programs.

The phrase refers to this week’s tepid response by the university in question to a controversy surrounding its women’s basketball coach Rene Portland. Tuesday Penn State’s own internal investigation reported that Portland created a "hostile, intimidating and offensive environment" for player Jennifer Harris because Coach allegedly believed Harris is a lesbian.

Harris, by the way, says she is not gay -- a fact that truly doesn’t matter when it comes to discrimination. (Note that even well-meaning straight folks can sometimes miss the fact that they can be subjected to the same discrimination gays face, or even the same unfair laws. It’s all a matter of perception… but I do digress.)

Harris’s basketball career was in tatters, and she was driven off the team.

In response, the university gave Portland a light slap on the wrist.

Brennan writes:

Portland's reprimand was slight — a $10,000 fine against the backdrop of a six-figure salary. She also was ordered to participate in diversity and inclusiveness training and was told if she ever does anything like this again, the university definitely will fire her then.
It’s important to note that this will be the second time Portland has been sent to diversity and inclusiveness training.

Brennan notes:

With a feisty scowl, Portland (this week) denied discriminating against Harris, who filed a federal lawsuit against her. She also called the university's investigative process "flawed." Now that's chutzpah. The university president gives her another chance, and she runs right up and kicks him in the teeth.

Portland and homosexuals have an ignominious history together. In the 1990s, she refused to deny in a Philadelphia Inquirer story that she discriminated against lesbians in her program. When she was saying this back then, she found some takers, especially in the living rooms of Middle America.

One wonders, however, what she is finding today in a world that is more open-minded and, presumably, far more surprised to hear such stark words of discrimination, words that, if one lives by them, also happen to be against the law.

But Portland is a smart woman. She clearly knows how to pick whom to despise on the Penn State campus. Replace the word "gay" with black, Asian, Jew or even overweight, and she would be cleaning out her desk today.

Women’s Hoops Blog has a good background piece on the issue called “A Brief History of Rene Portland and the L Word.”

No comments: