Women's Hoops Blog

Inane commentary on a game that deserves far better

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Hopefully Pat and Helen won't yell at me, but this needs posting, mostly because I didn't see any "traditional" media coverage of the Think Tank, and I doubt if anyone "traditional" will give it the time now.

From the introduction to "THE POSITIVE APPROACH: Recognizing, Challenging, and Eliminating Negative Recruiting Based on Actual or Perceived Sexual Orientation," by Dr. Pat Griffin and Helen J. Carroll.
In a Think Tank convened by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in October, 2006, top sports leaders from across the country, including NCAA leaders, athletic directors, coaches and athletes, attorneys, conference commissioners, college presidents, researchers and executives of national coaching organizations, came together to discuss the impact of negative recruiting based on actual or perceived sexual orientation. This recruiting practice is a persistent problem that undermines the principle and practice of ethical behavior and contributes to the continuation of the well-documented problem of homophobia in sport.

Equal opportunity in sport is a core principle that should be deeply valued and vigorously pursued. Negative recruiting based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, which refers to the practice of playing on stereotypes to deter recruits from attending rival athletic programs by alleging or implying that a rival coach or team members are gay or lesbian, undermines this core principle. Because sexual orientation is irrelevant to coaching, leadership, or athletic abilities, the actual or perceived sexual orientation of any coach or player should not be part of the recruiting process.

Consistent with the principle of equal opportunity, the talented experts assembled for this Think Tank believe in a “level playing field” where people are judged on the merits for their talent, capacity for hard work, and contributions to sport rather than on personal characteristics—such as sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. What emerged from the Think Tank were two issues: first, a deeper understanding of this type of discrimination, and second, a consensus that those involved in intercollegiate athletics need to be made aware of the problem and told what they can do to proactively address or remedy this problem. This report, issued by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Women’s Sports Foundation through its It Takes A Team! Education Campaign for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues in Sport, takes on these two challenges. It clearly defines this particular brand of unethical and discriminatory recruiting conduct, and then lists best practices that, if used consistently, can bring this conduct to a halt.

What recruiting practices should be used instead? Intercollegiate athletic recruiters should take “The Positive Approach,” focusing their recruiting activities on listing the positive attributes of the institution to which the recruiter hopes to attract talented student-athletes. The NCAA has a guiding phrase for the recruiting practices of their collegiate membership: “Keep It Positive.” The definitions and explanations of negative recruiting based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, combined with the best practices for eliminating this unethical practice, are aligned with the NCAA’s philosophy. What we ultimately hope for, and work towards, is a day when we can say that discrimination and homophobia in sport have been eliminated.