Thursday, July 29, 2010

Allegations of Anti-Lesbian Bias in IUPUI Women’s Basketball Program

Here we go again. An article in the Indianapolis Star reports that allegations of NCAA rule violations and allegations of abuse have been lodged against the head coach and associate head coach of women’s basketball at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI).

The abuse allegations against coaches Shann Hart and Chanel Spriggs come from 11 former players. The Star article reports that 28 players and assistant coaches have left the program in the last four seasons. This number includes 19 scholarship athletes. Wow. Wouldn’t you think that these numbers might raise some kind of red flag for administrators that something is terribly wrong in the women’s basketball program? These numbers are higher than the 23 people who left the Oregon State women’s program where the head coach was fired amid allegations of abusive and, frankly, a little unhinged behavior. I wrote about the situation at Oregon State in my June 2 post.

The IUPUI players claim that the coaches created an “atmosphere of fear, favoritism, humiliation and inappropriate interest in their personal lives.” One player told the Star that she was asked “explicitly” about her sexual orientation and others described a “reckless” postgame “rant” by the coach about players who “break team rules by becoming involved in intimate relationships with each other.”

IUPUI has named a three member panel to investigate the charges. Coaches Hart and Spriggs have declined to comment on the allegations. No timeline for the investigative panel’s report has been made public, but I will definitely follow-up on this.

A state-wide LGBT rights organization, Indiana Equality, has taken note of the anti-lesbian allegations and sent a letter to the university president and athletic director citing the university’s non-discrimination policy and demanding that they take action if the allegations are confirmed.

If these allegations of abuse are substantiated, it is not only the coaches who should be held accountable. It is also the school athletic administrators and any other athletic staff who ignored or supported the alleged abusive behavior and anti-lesbian interrogations and relationship rules. How many times do we have to hear this story or variations of it for coaches and administrators to begin to take seriously their responsibilities to abide by school policies and state non-discrimination laws?

And, please, to people who say homophobia is no longer an issue in women’s sports: These allegations are exactly the kind of abuse of power and unethical coach behavior that ruins sport for all women athletes, not just lesbians, but any woman athlete who must live in fear of accusation or innuendo.

*Thanks to Helen Carroll for calling this situation to my attention.


Anonymous said...

Honest question: does the story change if both coaches are also lesbians

Anonymous said...

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Pat Griffin said...

First Anonymous commenter - absolutely not. The sexual orientation (or gender) of the coach makes no difference to me. I would have the same reaction to the coach's behavior. Do you think it makes a difference?

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