Sunday, March 26, 2006

Rene is a Weenie

Rene Portland, the head coach of Penn State's women's basketball team, has been openly discriminating against lesbian players for years. Coach Mom & Dad & I were at the Women's Final Four in New Orleans in 1991 when she was given the National Division I Coach of the Year Award. We sat on our hands when the award was announced. We were too polite to boo, but Coach Mom did mutter "Discriminator!" loudly when she stepped to the podium.

Massachusetts has big billboards on the highways as you enter the state warning about our gun laws (at least we used to -- has our series of Rethug governors had them taken down?) I wish we had big billboards warning people like Rene Weenie Portland that Massachusetts doesn't tolerate discriminators and haters. Get out of town, and take your medieval attitudes with you, Rene Weenie.

Boston Globe: When the fouls get very personal
Player's suit claims Penn State coach was biased against lesbians

By Bob Hohler, Globe Staff | March 26, 2006

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- They echo through the years, voices from a generation of female basketball players who say their lives were marred by a powerful college coach's campaign against homosexuality.

Their legacy of pain began in 1982, when, Cindy Davies says, Penn State coach Maureen T. ''Rene" Portland threatened to expose her as a lesbian. The legacy endured as Portland in 1986 publicly espoused her opposition to coaching homosexuals and reaffirmed her stance in 1991, all the while allegedly engaging in a pattern of bias based on sexual orientation. And the legacy grows as Jennifer Harris pursues a federal discrimination claim that Portland cut her from the Penn State team last year in part because the coach considered her a lesbian.

As the women's basketball community converges on Boston this week for the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament, the Portland case looms as a watershed chapter in a decades-long struggle to eradicate prejudice that has long festered in the sport against homosexual players and coaches. Numerous athletes and coaches said in interviews that nearly every facet of women's college basketball, from recruiting to hiring practices, has been affected by discrimination based on sexual orientation.

''This lawsuit is the most significant thing that has happened in trying to address homophobia in the sport to date," said Pat Griffin, a professor emerita at the University of Massachusetts whose educational program aimed at curbing bias against homosexuals has been distributed by the NCAA to every member school. ''It's a cautionary tale for coaches and athletic directors that they cannot discriminate with impunity anymore."

While the NCAA prepares a survey on the impact of homophobia in the sport and the Women's Basketball Coaches Association plans at its national convention in Boston this week to adopt a code of ethics that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation, Harris, 21, is seeking unspecified monetary damages and a number of institutional reforms in her 20-count civil rights suit against Portland, Penn State athletic director Timothy Curley, and the school. The list of proposed reforms includes annual mandatory anti-discrimination training for Penn State's athletic staff.


Confrontational coach
In Portland's case, the timeline of her campaign against homosexuality dates to 1982, her second full year at Penn State (she was hired by the school's legendary football coach, Joe Paterno, who then doubled as athletic director). Suspicious that Davies, one of her prized players, was romantically involved with the team's female student manager, Portland dismissed the manager and confronted Davies, the former player said in a telephone interview.

''It's seared in my mind to this day," Davies, 43, said of the confrontation. ''[Portland] said, 'I don't know if it's true, but if I find out it's true, there's nothing that will stop me from going to your parents, the university, and the media.' "

Davies said she ''felt like I was being blackmailed" but lacked the support she would have needed as a 19-year-old to challenge Portland.

''I was scared to death," she said. ''I felt like I was cornered. I ended up saying I would leave the program to concentrate on my academics."

After leaving Penn State, Davies said, she entered a lengthy period of depression in which she contemplated suicide.

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