Former U of R Athletes Allege Anti-Gay Discrimination
Two former members of the University of Richmond women’s basketball team who say they faced harassment from coaches for their sexuality are now working to eliminate the barriers that LGBT people face in sports and elsewhere.
The article details the discrimination the now-engaged couple endured from coaches and teammates at a university who went on to host the first national conference of LGBT student athletes this past February.
Johnson, a native of Paterson, New Jersey, said she faced discrimination for her body type even before she was outed as a lesbian after her freshman year. When Register signed with the team, Johnson said she was ordered by assistant coach Ebony Tanner Moore to end their relationship.
“I don’t know what it is you’re doing,” Johnson alleges coach Moore told her, “I don’t know what phase you’re going through, but you need to break up with Miah before she steps foot on this campus.”
Johnson also said that the coaches instituted a ban on dating within the team, a policy strongly discouraged by the NCAA.
“I felt like we were really being singled out,” Johnson said. “There were other girls dating, there were other girls who identified as lesbian or bisexual, and there was such a focus on our personal issues that it affected the productivity of the team.”
Register, who shared her experiences with the blog of GO! Athletes, a network of LGBT athletes, in May 2013, also said she had a rough time at UR. After one of Register’s coaches outed her to her mother, she was disowned by her family and forced to move in with Johnson’s family.
“I was absolutely treated differently,” Register wrote. “Not only for being a lesbian, (which, by the way, no one ever asked, it was just assumed, and because I was less feminine than the other girls, they assumed a lot about me) but for being black, and I was judged for being from an urban area. I was ostracized for being the former—being Me—and I was abandoned by my family for the same reasons”
U of R released a statement saying they could not comment on the issue as they conducted their own internal investigation. “The University takes seriously and investigates fully any allegation of discrimination,” reads the statement. “University of Richmond is committed to a welcoming and inclusive environment.”
The couple transferred to Fairleigh Dickinson University in December 2011. Johnson had to end her basketball career the next year after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, while Register left the team in 2013 because of emotional issues.
They founded the Johnson-Register Alliance this month, which they describe as “a platform for women, people with disabilities, people of color, & LGBTQ people.”
“We are survivors of our stories,” the couple wrote on the Alliance’s Facebook page, “and now advocate for equity and inclusion.”
“This year the Q-Summit is putting a more explicit focus on racial justice as it intersects with queer organizing in the south.”March 3, 2016
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