Thursday, March 22, 2007

A New Day for Penn State Women’s Basketball!

I just heard the news that Rene Portland, Penn State Women’s Basketball coach has resigned. I have hoped since the announcement of the settlement of the case former player, Jen Harris, brought against the University and Portland that this might happen. I speculated that this might part of the confidential settlement: That Rene would step down at the conclusion of this season. Penn State renewed Portland’s contract last year, right in the middle of the lawsuit, so this resignation was clearly not in her plans then. Whether her resignation was part of the settlement or not, the outcome is the same: A coach who has had her own anti-lesbian agenda is finally gone after 27 years..

I’d like to think that this is a new day for Penn State women’s basketball. The program has been under the shadow the lawsuit and the team has encountered protests at home and away games for the last two years (not to mention having sub-par records). As I wrote in an earlier post, the shadow of accusation and denial at Penn State would not go away until Portland did

What does this mean for the ongoing effort to eliminate discrimination against and harassment of lesbians (or women thought to be lesbians) in sport? After all, Rene Portland was not the only collegiate coach who does not tolerate lesbians on their teams. She was just the one who received the most attention for her views. I’ve always hoped that the entire Penn State mess would serve as a cautionary tale for other schools and coaches. I still hope it has, but when the settlement was first announced, it looked as though Portland would keep her job and that did not sit well with many people, including me.

Now I can hope that Portland’s resignation a month after the lawsuit was settled sends a message to all athletes who might find themselves in situations similar to Jen Harris: Discrimination and harassment can be successfully challenged through the legal system. Coaches who abuse their power and force their personal anti-gay prejudices on their teams will pay the price.

This news is a huge victory for fair play in women’s athletics. It was a long time coming, but come it did. Thank you, Jen Harris, for standing up and saying no. It took the courage of a young basketball player to lead the way. Thank you, NCLR for playing David to Penn State’s Goliath. It looks like the rock found its mark. Let the new day for women’s sports begin!


calugg said...

Speaking as a PSU alum, I found Portland's interest in and control of her players personal lives to be very, very creepy. I mean, who cares about what 19-year olds do? So long as "they don't frighten the horses" it's none of a coach's damned business.

I used to be a music teacher, which has some interesting parallels with coaching. You form incredibly close relationships with your students and they with you. But you need to maintain some boundaries--your students (or your athletes) are NOT your children and you ARE NOT their parents. You need to respect them for who they are and work with their talents.

That Portland was soooo obsessed about her players' sexuality is just down-right weird. It probably ate up a lot of her time, time that she should focused on building a more close-knit team (they fell apart year after year at the NCAA).

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Anonymous said...

I'm so happy Portland is no longer at Penn St. I recently watched the movie Training Rules and my heart went out to all the lesbian players who went to Penn St and ended up leaving the program. Portland really screwed them over. Look at what it cost her and her teams. She had some great players playing for her that could've won Penn St several champoinships over the years.
The fact that when the university found out what was going on and they kept her as coach is crazy. The university should have been more supportive of the players.
Thank you Jen Harris for taking on the coach and university and winning the fight.

Anonymous said...

This puts Sandusky in context and he puts Portland in context. Wow...the common denominators in these cases is simply appalling.