Several Dozen Protest Ladies Basketball Coach at Penn State Game
State College, PA
About three-dozen people chose the final home game for Pennsylvania State University’s Lady Lions basketball team as the venue for a protest against Penn State coach Rene Portland and the university.
The protesters, who had tickets for the game against the sixth ranked Ohio State University Buckeyes, came inside the Bryce Jordan Center and watched the contest without causing a disturbance. They laid out a rainbow flag on three rows of empty seats, then waved a large banner during halftime.
Former player Jennifer Harris has filed a federal lawsuit against Portland, accusing the coach of asking her to try to look more “feminine” and of maintaining a discriminatory policy against lesbians or those who she thought were lesbians.
Portland has vehemently denied the allegations. Several hundred fans at the game responded to the protest by holding up “We Believe in Rene” signs, distributed by Portland supporters before the game, a 61-59 loss to the Buckeyes.
Portland declined comment about the protest after the game. She has refused to talk about the subject except for a few written statements at the beginning of the season.
“Can’t we just talk about basketball?” she asked in response to a question about the protesters. Asked about her supporters at the game, Portland, her voice cracking at times, said, “I really don’t know how to answer you.”
“I have given this school and these kids, and I will continue to give this school and these kids, the best of Lady Lion basketball,” she said.
Protesters say they targeted the game in part because it was the last home game this season for the Lady Lions.
“We want to show that Penn State doesn’t follow their [own nondiscrimination] policies,” says student Cory Carter, 18, of Philadelphia.
The lawsuit filed by Harris, who is Black, alleged that Portland “harassed and targeted” other Black players. Lawyers have said that Harris is not a lesbian.
Protest organizers allege that there has been a record of “inaction and collusion” by university administrators when it came to allegations of racism and homophobia at the university. School officials have firmly denied those charges.
Penn State spokesman Tysen Kendig says the protesters were allowed to exercise their free speech rights “even though we may not agree with them.”
“Unfortunately, some of those people who exercise that right don’t recognize the equally important individual’s right to due process,” Kendig says.
Buckeyes coach Jim Foster says he thought Portland was handling the situation well. “Sometimes people forget the human element,” Foster says.
Penn State has said it is conducting an internal investigation into the allegations.
— Associated Press
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