FanDuel - WFBC

May 11, 2012

Nebraska Assistant Under Fire for Anti-Gay Beliefs: Nebraska assistant football coach Ron Brown is facing calls for his dismissal after he addressed the Omaha City Council in March to oppose a measure adding gender identity and sexual orientation to the city's anti-discrimination policy. "The question that I have for you all is, like Pontius Pilate, what are you going to do with Jesus?" Brown, a born-again Christian and preacher, asked the council. "You will be held to great accountability for the decision that you make." Omaha passed that measure. Brown wrote a letter to the local paper Sunday opposing a similar measure in Lincoln but did not appear before the council, possibly under pressure from university officials. He wrote that he would not discriminate against a gay athlete: "I have and will embrace every player I coach, gay or straight ... but I won't embrace a legal policy that supports a lifestyle that God calls sin."

posted by rcade to football at 03:38 PM - 26 comments

"The question that I have for you all is, like Pontius Pilate, what are you going to do with Jesus?"

I have no idea what this means. How is an anti-discrimination measure like killing the Son of God? I am so confused. The longer I live, the more I'm convinced some folks' idea of an All-Powerful Being is not an entity I would want to have a beer with.

"And so, like Pontius Pilate, who didn't -- who kind of waffled around -- he wasn't sure."

He might have weighed all the options, sure, but I've never seen Pilate as wishy-washy. Seems like the fellow made a pretty cut-and-dried decision when he got around to it. Since it made justgary's night a few days ago, I'll take this chance to say the coach's thought process seems right in line with this guy. (NSFM: Not safe for marriage - don't get caught watching that without explaining in advance you're laughing at it)

posted by yerfatma at 04:44 PM on May 11

The God of Love hates gays.

posted by THX-1138 at 05:10 PM on May 11

Brown could be just a family member or two away from becoming an independent thinker on this. Worked for Dick Cheney, among others.

the coach's thought process seems right in line with this guy

Jesse Lee needs to be reminded that "his" America, which he claims is over, and which he thinks was based on men being in charge, was based on white men being in charge. Let me know if you like your Jim Crow on the rocks or straight out of the bottle, reverend.

posted by beaverboard at 05:16 PM on May 11

This guy is wrong, and twenty years from now he'll be embarrassed at how publicly wrong he was, but he's not firing wrong. He's quietly-show-the-door-instead-of-contract-reupping wrong, especially if some five-star halfback prospect tweets "Almost went #Huskers, but then found out my positions coach thinks my brother is going to Hell. #loveyoubro #goblue".

posted by Etrigan at 09:07 PM on May 11

I found it interesting that the first time he called himself a "private citizen" but gave his address as within the university. It would seem he's implying his comments should have been given more weight due to his position.

I'm troubled that in his letter he wrote he "gently" urged some players to consider a relationship with God. He's a public employee who had a close connection with the players because of his position ... I believe the subject should have been off-limits.

Should he be fired? No, I have no problems with him speaking as long as he doesn't identify with the university. I just don't agree with him proselytizing to players.

posted by jjzucal at 09:10 PM on May 11

The research linked to in this article might explain a lot. Science!

I love the Hitchens quote.

posted by owlhouse at 09:26 PM on May 11

I couldn't possibly disagree more with Coach Brown's opinions, but I hold that it is wrong to fire somebody because they exercised their right to participate in the political process - no matter how wrong headed, prejudiced or backwards their views may be.

I would support Nebraska using this as "teachable moment" opportunity, focused perhaps on how offering rights to one group of people in no way removes or weakens rights from another group of people. Coach Brown would still be allowed to hold his deeply seeded, ignorant beliefs and tell anyone who would listen that gays were going to hell EVEN IF the state made it clear that the state couldn't discriminate against homosexuals or the trans-gendered.

That all said, I am really looking forward to the day that more active players in college and professional supports are out. The day is coming and the Coach Brown's of the world are going to be going the way of the dinosaur.

posted by Joey Michaels at 10:12 PM on May 11

I hold that it is wrong to fire somebody because they exercised their right to participate in the political process - no matter how wrong headed, prejudiced or backwards their views may be.

I agree until the airing of their views in public interferes with their ability to do the job. If people think you cannot be an effective mentor to young people because of those views, then you can't really do your job anymore. And, so should Nebraska be forced to hold on to some guy who can't effectively recruit or mentor anymore? Actions have consequences and the one who should suffer the consequences is Brown not Nebraska.

posted by bperk at 08:17 AM on May 12

Given what Brown is publicly campaigning for -- the government to do nothing to stop gays from being discriminated against in things like housing and employment -- I don't see how it has no effect on his ability to do his job.

He says in his letter that if one of his players was gay, he would "gently" ask them to consider that their "lifestyle" is a sin. So if some 18- or 19-year-old comes out while on Nebraska's football team in the next few years, he'll have to deal with Brown and any teammates influenced by the coach's outspoken views to share their opinion on his sinfulness.

When Brown was a college athlete playing football for Brown University in the 1970s, how would he have reacted to a coach "gently" telling him that race-mixing was wrong? What message would it have sent to black athletes when his school tolerated that conduct from one of its officials?

posted by rcade at 09:56 AM on May 12

Wait, he went to Brown? Like Brown in the Ivy League? Guess he didn't quite take advantage of that.

"Almost went #Huskers, but then found out my positions coach thinks my brother is going to Hell. #loveyoubro #goblue"

Would that it were so, but it'll never happen, which is what makes this problematic. I agree that it's not a reason to fire someone (though he ought to figure out his home mailing address to avoid "confusion" in the future), but it's unfortunate that someone in such an already homophobic setting would take it upon themselves to make things worse.

posted by yerfatma at 10:51 AM on May 12

Give university officials credit; there are probably a number of schools where officials would have succumbed to this pressure and fired him even though there's probably almost as much support for him. Of course, the school would have faced a lawsuit which it would have had little chance at winning.

posted by jjzucal at 01:06 PM on May 12

"Almost went #Huskers, but then found out my positions coach thinks my brother is going to Hell. #loveyoubro #goblue"

Would that it were so, but it'll never happen, which is what makes this problematic.

If this were 2004, I'd agree that it's a pipe dream, but I think that we're not too very far away from a major sports figure being out of the closet while playing, much less one being willing to stand up for a family member. Sort of the "Not that there's anything wrong with it..." stage.

posted by Etrigan at 02:26 PM on May 12

Give university officials credit; there are probably a number of schools where officials would have succumbed to this pressure and fired him even though there's probably almost as much support for him. Of course, the school would have faced a lawsuit which it would have had little chance at winning.

You're a lawyer, well-versed in employment law, and so are speaking from experience?

I'm not a lawyer, but AFAIK "bigot" is not a protected category. If I'm wrong about that, please correct me.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 08:55 PM on May 12

You're a lawyer, well-versed in employment law, and so are speaking from experience?

And you've played all the sports we talk about at a professional level, right?

posted by yerfatma at 10:14 PM on May 12

We talk about sports?

I think I need reading glasses.

posted by Hugh Janus at 10:31 PM on May 12

There's a difference between predicting the outcome of a sporting event and claiming that a lawsuit would go a certain way when there's little to no precedent for it.

posted by Etrigan at 11:01 PM on May 12

No, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

posted by rcade at 08:31 AM on May 13

I'm not a lawyer, but AFAIK "bigot" is not a protected category. If I'm wrong about that, please correct me.

The first amendment applies since he is a state employee speaking out on a matter of public concern. I think a lawsuit if Nebraska fired him could go either way. It would be a substantial interference test generally and certainly an argument can be made that this disrupts the coaching operations at Nebraska. The fact that he admits to proselytizing does not help him.

posted by bperk at 09:02 AM on May 13

The first amendment applies since he is a state employee speaking out on a matter of public concern.

"A matter of public concern"? Who someone has sex with is "a matter of public concern"?

For God's sake, please tell me that I've completely misunderstood and that you didn't just say something that any reasonable person would have considered antedliuvian forty years ago.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 09:02 PM on May 13

Here's a relevant blog post on the constitutional issue.

Given the university's established interest in providing an environment free of discrimination, I think it could legally fire a coach who "gently" tells his athletes that homosexuality is a sin and speaks out against anti-discrimination policies covering gays.

However, as a public university that would want to cultivate an atmosphere of free speech, it might fear the message it sent to punish an employee for his political advocacy.

posted by rcade at 09:24 PM on May 13

For God's sake, please tell me that I've completely misunderstood and that you didn't just say something that any reasonable person would have considered antedliuvian forty years ago.

He was speaking at a City Council meeting. For purposes of free speech it matters whether the speech was a matter of public concern (i.e., political) vs. more private types of speech. There is higher protection for political speech. I have no idea if you misunderstood, but I did provide a link that explained why that mattered. If you have a problem with it being a matter of public concern, you should take it up with the Omaha City Council not me.

posted by bperk at 10:58 PM on May 13

"The question that I have for you all is, like Pontius Pilate, what are you going to do with Jesus?"

From what I can read from the literature, Pilate just wanted peace and stability in his Roman Province. Most of the troubles in Palestine were being stirred up by religious nutters.

That sort of thing could never happen today.

posted by owlhouse at 12:41 AM on May 14

You could almost take look at it as a case where one person trying to deny a minority rights ends up having their own rights violated.

posted by apoch at 06:05 AM on May 14

We have the right to deny others' rights? Is that the idea here?

posted by lil_brown_bat at 08:25 AM on May 14

While the irony of it is initially amusing, the violation of a person's rights, whether they be gay, straight, or bigot is not a good thing. Whether or not the University of Nebraska has to respect his rights or not is a legal question I'm not qualified to answer.

posted by apoch at 08:48 AM on May 14

While the irony of it is initially amusing, the violation of a person's rights, whether they be gay, straight, or bigot is not a good thing.

If, indeed, they are rights. Free speech is not an unrestricted right, and never has been, in the United States or anywhere else. More to the point, the right to free speech in the United States has never meant that you have the right to speak without consequences. You have the right to publicly state your low opinion about gays...but you don't have the right to retain your job if your employer hears that opinion and forms the judgement that someone with that attitude is not going to be able to perform the job correctly.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 09:59 AM on May 14

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