Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Announcing the Second Ever Horse’s Patoot Salute!

On September 24 I awarded the first Horse’s Patoot Salute to two youth baseball “coaches” in Michigan City, Indiana, Scott Kaletha and Mike Schwanke. These two men (who do not deserve to be called coaches) not only allowed team members to harass a 12 year old player with anti-gay slurs, the adults participated in the name-calling. They even defended their use of anti-gay slurs as “humor and joking” and “boys will be boys.” You can read the original news story here.

I just received an email from a relative of the boy targeted by the name-calling to let me know that the coaches’ appeal of their one year suspension for their behavior was overturned by the Michigan City Park and Recreation Board. You can read about the hearing here.

Thus, my second Horse’s Patoot Salute goes to the Michigan City Park & Recreation Board for their decision to allow two bullies who call themselves coaches to continue to damage the lives of the young boys in Michigan City.

This decision is an outrage. How can a board, that is supposed to protect young people by enforcing a standard of conduct for the adults who work with young athletes, justify their cowardly and harmful support for volunteer coaches who defiantly defend their right to bully and encourage bigotry among their 12-year old team members? You got me.

If I lived in Michigan City, I’d be screaming for the heads of the Park and Recreation Board members who voted to overturn the suspensions of these two men. I actually think a one year suspension is going too easy on them. They should be banned from working with the youth of Michigan City. What would it take for the Michigan City Park and Recreation Board to take action? What kind of lesson is this for the youth of Michigan City? I suspect that a good ole boy network was protecting their own at the expense of the youth of Michigan City.

There must be other adults willing to serve as volunteer coaches who are committed to a more enlightened coaching philosophy. If I lived in Michigan City and had a son or daughter who participated in sports coached by Kaletha and Schwanke (they also coach football), I would be screaming bloody murder about the failure of the Park and Recreation Board to enforce even minimal standards of civility here. Can citizens not demand that volunteer youth sports coaches act with more maturity and judgment than we see among middle school aged bullies?

If you agree, I encourage you to contact the Recreation Director and Mayor of Michigan City to let them know :

Jeremy Kienitz
Recreation Director
voice: (219) 873-1524

Mayor Chuck Oberlie
Office of the Mayor
100 East Michigan Boulevard
Michigan City, Indiana 46360

Friday, October 24, 2008

First Gay Race Horse

Here is a very funny video from the Onion, a satirical news web site, that has some really clever posts. Enjoy!

First Openly Gay Racehorse To Compete Sunday

Thursday, October 16, 2008

FGCU Coaches Win $3.4 Mil Settlement

Last December 7 I wrote a post here about the deplorable situation at Florida Gulf Coast University where women coaches were being retaliated against for complaining about Title IX violations. The university and two of the coaches involved, former golf coach Holly Vaughn and former volleyball coach Jaye Flood, reached a settlement in which the two coaches will receive a total of $3.4 million. Here is another story about this. There was also a defamation charge in the lawsuit, I assume because the university tried to smear Jaye Flood by claiming she grabbed a player by the shirt (never substantiated) and that she had a sexual relationship with the team manager (never substantiated either). The university also agreed to a full external gender equity compliance review as part of the settlement. This is good because we already know that an internal review is useless since they already did one and decided that everything was just hunky dory in the athletic department.
It is telling, however, that no one from the athletic department was present for the announcement of the settlement and the University President stated that he has “full confidence” in athletic director Carl McAloose. The settlement also means that FGCU does not have to admit any wrongdoing. This does not lead me to believe that that anyone in the school administration or athletic department leadership has seen the light at all. The arrogance and sexism of the athletic department leadership (backed by the same from the school administration) and the refusal of the coaches to sit back and take it without a fight resulted in the boys being called to account. However, with the same old leadership who has the same old attitudes about women’s sports, how can we expect any more than the same old, same old? I hope I am wrong.

FGCU lost two successful coaches, got some bad publicity and their insurance company had to pay out $3.4 mil. I hope that is enough to catch the attention of other schools. Women coaches and athletes are not taking this kind of treatment anymore. Those who challenge discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation are winning hefty settlements. It’s a shame it has to come to that, but if that‘s what it takes to get the attention of these bozos, I’m all for it.

Saying “That’s So Gay!” is So Yesterday!

The Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has produced an ad campaign targeting young people who use the phrase, “that’s so gay,” as a general putdown for anything that they see as stupid, ugly, out of style, weird and so on. The campaign also targets parents and educators and provides resources for them to address the casual use of this putdown with young people. Check out the web site,

The casual use of “that’s so gay” and other anti-gay slurs like “faggot,” “dyke,” and “no homo” are common in athletics. When I work with collegiate athletes I often ask them to raise their hands if they have heard teammates or coaches use phrases like these in the last week or two. Typically, almost everyone, men and women, say that they have heard these words. I often then ask them to indicate if they have heard teammates or coaches object to the use of these phrases. Typically, very few indicate that they have.

When I ask the same questions of coaches, they typically say they do not hear anti-gay slurs at all. I guess there are several explanations for this disconnect. Maybe athletes use anti-gay words out of the coaches’ hearing. Maybe the coaches are not being honest because they know they should say something to stop this, but don’t. Maybe they are so used to hearing (and using) these words that they really don’t notice them.

The casual use of anti-gay words has become such a part of youth culture that many young people do not even think about what effect these words might have on friends, classmates or teammates who are gay, have gay family members, or are questioning their sexuality. School climate surveys conducted by GLSEN indicate that high school students rarely observe teachers or coaches intervene when anti-gay slurs are used.

Why don’t teachers and coaches speak up? Some don’t see the harm. Some do, but don’t know what to say. Some are afraid of being perceived as gay if they speak up. Some are too busy so they let it go. Some use these words themselves as a way to “motivate” or punish male athletes or, in the case of women’s sports, to inoculate themselves and their teams from the dreaded lesbian label.

It is difficult for me to understand how anyone who works with young people thinks that an atmosphere in which any kind of name-calling or casual use of slurs contributes to excellence in the classroom or on the playing field. It’s so yesterday.

If you are a teacher, a coach, a parent, an aunt or an uncle, speak up. The next time you hear a young person in your life (or an adult, for that matter) say “that’s so gay” or any of the other phrases that insult gay people and make the people who use them look stupid, say something. Don’t just let it go. It really does make a difference.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

An Inspiring Story About Being a Black Gay Athlete

Outsports has posted an article written by Jamal Brown, a former Dartmouth track and field athlete. Jamal is also featured in Jeff Sheng’s Fearless Campus Tour. I encourage readers to take the time to read Jamal’s Outsports post.

I have always been a believer in the power of personal story-telling. Jamal’s story, and the stories of other LGBT athletes and coaches who can choose to tell their stories and live their truth, can empower the story teller and everyone else in their lives. When teammates and coaches respond with friendship and support, it enriches everyone’s life and frees the team to focus on what the focus should be in athletics: becoming the best athlete and team possible.

When I hear about stories like the ones unfolding at SMU or Mesa Community College or on the youth baseball team in Indiana (check previous posts), it seems so clear that what is happening in these situations is such a destructive force that ruins the sport experience for all. It sucks the life out of a team, not to mention ruining the careers of athletes and coaches. Regardless of their sexual orientation, what do the young people on these teams learn?

Thanks, Jamal, and all of the other LGBT athletes and coaches who are speaking up and out, telling their stories, naming their truths with the expectation that teammates and coaches will rise to the occasion rather than respond based on their fears and prejudices. The more those who can speak up do, the more space we create for those who fear speaking their truth because their teammates and coaches have not yet learned to overcome their fear and prejudice. Team by team, LGBT athletes who come out are changing sports and that change is a good thing.

Note: I will be away for about ten days and will not be posting anything until sometime the week of October 13. Take care. Talk to you later.