Women's Hoops Blog

Inane commentary on a game that deserves far better

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Liberty's improbable run to the Sweet Sixteen has sparked some discussion about the tension between the school's politics and the women's basketball world.

In the email box today, I got this note from a former Liberty student:
So Ted, If the University of Colorado's women's team had made it as far as Liberty's would you have made the same smart ass comment about it being a mixed blessing? Given that their administration stands behind a faculty member, a man with no PH.D. who pretended to be a native American and referred to those who died at the World Trade center as little Eichmann's?
Well, listen, I think Ward Churchill is a pretty big jackass too. If I were stranded on a desert isle and forced to choose between life with Churchill and life with Falwell, I'd probably drown myself.

But the comparison of Liberty to Colorado doesn't make much sense. Falwell founded Liberty as a means to indoctrinate young people into his way of thinking. Churchill is just one nutty prof at UC. Liberty is self-consciously devoted to advancing a particular faith and a particular political agenda; it does not value diversity or pluralisim. Colorado is not devoted to a particular faith or political party; it seeks to accomodate a wide variety of viewpoints.

But (you may say) Colorado's stated commitment to diversity is a sham. It is just another leftist-secular school where conservative and Christian viewpoints are silenced.

I'm not sure that's true. I have several friends who went to Boulder, and they don't appear to have been indoctrinated into leftist radicalism. In fact, they spent most of their time skiing and doing coke; now they're all good Republicans.

But we can make it even simpler and boil it down to this: Colorado doesn't kick out conservatives and Christians. Liberty kicks out gay people (or at least "sexually active" gay people).

It is a school with explicit anti-gay policies and, by many reports, a nasty homophobic culture. It functions as the pedagogical arm of a large advocacy organization that works tirelessly to oppose gay rights and to cement gay apartheid. Falwell is a hideous man, and Liberty University -- in its anti-gay policies, culture, and teachings -- is a hideous institution.

So what are we to make of its women's basketball team? Must we assume that all of the players and coaches are homophobes and bigots?

No. I certainly believe (and hope) that not all Liberty students and employees agree with their school's stance on homosexuality. It's not fair to paint the players as irredeemable bigots just because they go to Falwell's school. The constant insults hurled at the Liberty team by women's basketball fans are tiresome, counterproductive, and frequently childish.

Yet at the same time, the players and coaches are all adults who have chosen to play and work at that school (and I wonder how anyone who cared a whit for gay rights could make that choice). By playing and working there, they support the institution. At some level, they deserve to be held accountable for pain caused by the institution they support.

In short, they as individuals are not immune from criticism.

Homophobia should be exposed and criticized. If this basketball tournament provides an opportunity for us to expose and criticize the homophobia at Liberty, we should take it. Cheering against Liberty is a legitimate, peaceful form of protest that you may (or may not) choose.

The players and coaches on Liberty's fine basketball team may find it unfair that they receive criticism rather than support from the women's basketball world. But like all of us, they at some point must stand up and be held accountable for their beliefs.

They should all be ashamed of their school's anti-gay policies and homophobic culture. If they disagree with those policies and if they oppose that culture, then they should speak out. Like all of us, they have an obligation to expose and criticize the evil in their midst. They have an obligation to work for change.

If, on the other hand, they support their school's policies and Falwell's politics, then I really have nothing to say to them. They have a right to their beliefs, and I have a right to criticize those beliefs. I will fight their cause in any way I can, and I will cheer against their basketball team.