Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Women’s Basketball Coaches Need to Step Up Against Homophobia

I’ve been reading the latest news stories about Pokey Chatman’s resignation and noticing that the theme of many of these articles is now – How much will women’s basketball be hurt by Chatman’s apparent breach of coaching ethics? A few coaches are speaking on the record, some are speaking anonymously about this and the consensus seems to be that the story is a set back, but not a major one in the long run. We would not be having this conversation if the coach in question was a man. The concerns expressed by the coaches are focused on how Chatman’s resignation perpetuates the stereotype that women basketball coaches and players are lesbians, not on the apparent coaching ethics breach. I’d like to see more coaches focusing on this as a coaching ethics problem, not a lesbian problem. How does it damage women’s basketball when any coach abuses her or his position of leadership?

Contrast this with coaches’ response to the Penn State discrimination case. I don’t remember any similar questions being asked when we first learned about Jen Harris’ discrimination case against former Penn State coach Rene Portland. There was not a single story on how a homophobic coach might damage the reputation of women’s basketball. My bet is that most coaches, like most of the world, knew about Portland’s “no lesbian” policy for her teams. With the exception of the Big 10 coaches, the conference in which Penn State plays, women’s coaches refused to comment on the situation. Early on, the Big 10 coaches issued a statement of support for Portland! Even Virginia coach, Debbie Ryan, whom Harris claimed was targeted by Portland’s negative recruiting efforts, expressed disbelief and support for Portland.

The silence is deafening from the women’s basketball coaching community about the problems caused by coaches who discriminate against lesbian players or who negatively recruit against lesbian coaches. Though it was prudent for coaches not to comment on the specifics of the Penn State case, a broad statement against discrimination against lesbians would have been appropriate and was conspicuously absent.

What this contrast in response confirms for me is that we still have a long way to go within the women’s coaching community in overcoming the fears they have about the lesbian bogeywoman whose image still casts a long shadow over women’s sports. How does it set back women’s sports when coaches are not willing to speak out against discrimination against lesbians, but are willing to speak out about the damage they fear lesbian stereotypes do to women’s basketball? It seems to be that it keeps us all going around in circles going nowhere.

10 comments:

Carol Anne (aka Scamp) said...

John Walters of NBC blogged from Cleveland (I don't know if anyone but me was reading his stuff).

One day he mentioned the Title IX conference and how the word "heteronorm" (pass for straight) had emerged from the academic feminists' gathering. He then declared that some VERY PROMINENT people--coaches, players and commentators--at this Final Four were heteronorming...but not at the parties!

I'm a lesbian and a longtime fan of women's college basketball. Via the grapevine I "know" about the homosexuality of some women coaches. I wonder just how long this profession will continue to keep its lesbians in the closet. Just who are they protecting anyway? The bigots?

calugg said...

Carol Anne:

Your comment about the "grapevine" hit a nerve. I'm going to earn my "bad dyke" merit badge with what follows.

If a coach is both homophobic and a lesbian/bi, it's time to out, out out their butts. Yes, we live in a hetereosexist and homophobic world. But coaches, who have enormous power over the lives of their players, need to step up and cut the crap.

If they're both lesbian/bi AND homophobic, they're a dangerous hypocrite. They're fueling the hate. No one has the right to spread vicious lies, diminish the lives of young people, and generally fuel hate, and if they do so, they sure as heck shouldn't keep their jobs.

I've always thought (and the political history supports this) that outing hypocrites is pretty effective. It also takes away the power of silence--which helped enable haters like Rene Portland.

Any thoughts???

Carol Anne said...

calugg--

Outing such hypocrites is just what they deserve!

I'd also include those lesbian coaches who present themselves as "too Christian to be gay."

calugg said...

Amen, sister, amen (*GRIN!*).

Calling Michelangelo Signorelli???

Carol Anne (aka Scamp) said...

Mechelle Voepel's HUGE feature in the Kansas City Star about K-State's Deb Patterson did all but kick open that closet door.

Voepel is a gem. She's written more than anyone else about this sport and sexuality (great stuff on Sheryl Swoopes' coming out and Rene Portland's bigotry.)

Basketballhoopsoutdoor said...

I've always thought (and the political history supports this) that outing hypocrites is pretty effective. It also takes away the power of silence--which helped enable haters like Rene Portland.

sildenafil said...

I think, there shouldn't be any kind of personal relationship between any member of team (work,basket, etc etc)
because that brings problems during the professional time and important to say no matter the gender or sexual orientation, and about the homofobic guy, ok maybe he is but I think he's kind chauvinism.

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