Has NU assistant football coach crossed the line?
Cyd Zeigler, the co-founder of outsports.com, has called for Nebraska’s assistant football coach, Ron Brown, to be fired. Over the past week, many have weighed in on the subject without looking at it objectively. At the heart of the matter is the question of whether or not Brown has violate the University of Nebraska’s nondiscrimination policy. Zeigler contends that he has.
For over 20 years University of Nebraska assistant football coach Ron Brown has used his position in the university to preach his discriminatory, anti-gay brand of Christianity. His latest crusade to fight for discrimination against the LGBT community finally warrants his termination from the school’s football program.
The university has a clear, inclusive nondiscrimination policy designed to “foster a climate of inclusion and mutual respect”:
To this end, it is the policy of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln not to discriminate based upon age, race, ethnicity, color, national origin, gender, sex, pregnancy, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, veteran’s status marital status, religion and political affiliation.
On March 6 Brown traveled to Omaha to argue against a bill that would protect gay people from discrimination. In his arguments, Brown suggested it is God’s will to discriminate against gay people, even saying those who voted to protect gay people bill would be held to “great accountability” by God.
Most importantly, he has linked these discriminatory views to his coaching job. When testifying before the Omaha City Council, some of the first words out of his mouth conveyed that he is a football coach at the University of Nebraska. Chancellor Harvey Perlman has publicly wagged his finger at Brown for making that connection, but that “reprimand” doesn’t undo the truth beneath the words: Brown brings his discrimination into his work at the university, and he uses his job to spread his anti-gay beliefs.
While Brown is allowed to argue for or against any bill he wants, he is not allowed to use his position as a football coach to do so.
Brown has said his purpose in coaching football at Nebraska is to “bring honor and glory to God.” From a 1997 interview: “I realize football enables me to do the two, in my opinion, most important things in my life, and that is one, to know Christ more intimately and number two, is to make him known. And that’s why I’m here in Nebraska, that’s why I’m a part of football.”
To Know Christ and To Make Him Known is the registered, trademarked motto for The Navigators. Having spent time in The Navigators, particularly at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I not only knew this mantra, but the automatic high level of respect my classmates in The Navigators gave Brown. They gave him the highest respect possible, not because he earned it, but because he was a coach with the Huskers and a Christian.
Over the last week I’ve watched over two hours of Ron Brown speaking via YouTube videos. In many of them, Brown is seen on the field just after a Nebraska football game. He looks into the camera and uses his position as a coach to preach the gospel and promote FreedMen Nebraska, his organization dedicated to “making the God connection in every realm.” In almost all his videos he connects his religious doctrine to his job in football at the University of Nebraska.
If Coach Brown rented the football field or basketball arena as anyone else, then I do not see a problem with him using the rented space for preaching. If he then connects his FreedMen Nebraska organization and gospel preaching to his job, then he is violating UNL’s nondiscrimination policy.
Brown also says that he would welcome a gay athlete, but his words and actions say otherwise.
Brown might claim that he would welcome a gay athlete. But the paradox of his message is revealed when asked how a gay athlete in the locker room should be treated.
“I think Christians should love a homosexual teammate just like they would any other teammate,” Brown said. “Let me tell you what else is in that locker room. There are thieves, liars, people who lust, people addicted to pornography, even some players who are alcoholics. There are all kinds of sinners in that locker room.”
Brown likens homosexuals to other sinners. He’ll accept them, providing they become his kind of Christian and give up their “sin” of homosexuality. This is not building a “climate of inclusion and mutual support.”
Pat Tetrault runs the LGBTQA resource center at the University of Nebraska. While speaking for herself and not for the university, she said it’s impossible to believe Brown’s views on anti-gay discrimination don’t affect his job with student athletes:
“When you have a nondiscrimination policy, and you make your views that a certain segment of the population should be singled out for discrimination, it really is hard to not believe it doesn’t impact the students and the staff who may not believe the same way he does.”
Tetrault has a point that has been proven elsewhere.
In 2002 he was a candidate for the head coaching position at Stanford University. After Brown’s religious views on gay people came to light, Stanford terminated his candidacy.
Zeigler goes on to point out that Ron Brown has also expressed his belief that the separation of church and state should be eliminated.
“If the ACLU in Nebraska seeks to slowly suppress the gospel message right out of where our kids spend most of their day, a school … is that any less of a sin than what may have happened at Penn State?”
Given Ron Brown’s stance on this and his liberal use of intermixing his position and his faith, there can be no doubt that he is flagrantly violating the University of Nebraska’s nondiscrimination policy. He is, arguably, abusing his position as a Nebraska football coach to further his own religious agenda.
In all honestly, it is genuinely doubtful that Brown sees what he is doing as any sort of violation. He is simply following Christ and spreading the good word. He doesn’t see what he’s doing is actually a violation of the law because it’s what he “believes.” What Brown also doesn’t realize is that his attitude and beliefs could be detrimental to the Husker football program.
Possible recruits will, one way or another, hear about Coach Brown and could pick another school to attend. The individual could be a highly touted recruit, but, because of Brown’s beliefs, chooses to go elsewhere. This individual doesn’t even have to be gay. They could just have no tolerance for such outdated views.
Brown explicitly denies the need to draw a line between his personal beliefs and his position at the University.
Brown has responded [mp3], but, as you listen to him, it’s clear that he doesn’t understand that he’s done anything wrong.
Ron Brown’s views are, to many, proselytizing. He should not be allowed to continue to be employed by a public, taxpayer funded university with a clear non-discrimination policy if he continues to use those ties to the University of Nebraska in doing so. Brown has every right to speak about his views and voice them, but he cannot do it as an employee of a public university.
Image from Husker Locker.