The University’s Office of Media Relations drew scrutiny this week, after the mother of women’s basketball player Kye Allums alleged GW stifled opportunities for Allums to speak out about his role as the first transgender basketball player in NCAA Division I history.
Allums’ mother, Rolanda Delamartinez, said that since Allums’ initial announcement and subsequent press conference in November, the University turned down numerous media requests and speaking opportunities for Allums, opportunities that Delamartinez said Allums wanted to pursue.
University spokeswoman Candace Smith declined to comment on how many media requests GW has received to interview the junior guard.
Delamartinez said initially, the University turned down media requests because “The Oprah Winfrey Show” wanted exclusive access to Allums’ story. But once “The Oprah Winfrey Show” passed on Allums’ story, Delamartinez said the University continued to deny media requests to interview Allums in an effort to make the story “go away.”
“My whole issue… is really about the civil rights of my child. Shutting her mouth from speaking, which makes it feel like that is discrimination based upon the fact that she has said to the world that she is transgender,” Delamartinez, who continues to use feminine pronouns to describe Allums, said. “That I don’t agree with. It should be her choice. Don’t tell the media, ‘Oh, I’m so supportive and I stick behind you,’ and that’s not the case behind closed doors.”
Smith confirmed that Allums’ story had generated interest from “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” but declined to comment on whether the show had asked for exclusivity, or whether Allums’ potential appearance on the show prevented him from taking part in other potential media engagements.
Specifically, Delamartinez said GW refused interview requests for Allums from the Washington Post, ESPN and Bryant Gumbel, host of HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.” Delamartinez said MTV expressed interest in casting Allums in its show “World of Jenks,” but after initially accepting the MTV request, Delamartinez said GW changed its mind.
Smith declined to comment on the specifics of the MTV opportunity.
“[They] told her, ‘It’s up to you,’ but no, it really wasn’t up to her because you made a decision. You told ESPN no, you told MTV no, you told all these other avenues no when you didn’t give her that choice,” Delamartinez said. “As a mother, that instinct comes out in me like a bear with a cub. Leave my kid alone, she’s not doing [anything] to anybody else. Let her get her education and while she’s recovering, let her speak to whoever the heck she wants to as long as it’s not jeopardizing her academics or the school.”
Smith denied Delamartinez’s allegation that the University had rejected media requests for Allums in an effort to bury the story.
“For the remainder of the season, Kye and the athletics department have agreed that it is in his best interest to focus on his academics and his rehabilitation,” Smith said, referring to the multiple concussions Allums sustained this season. “After the season, Kye may have more time to pursue outside activities if he so chooses.”
Assistant Sports Information Director Jesse Hooker declined The Hatchet’s request to speak with Allums.
Delamartinez said GW instructed Allums prior to a Nov. 3 press conference to tell members of the media that he was not planning on undergoing gender reassignment surgery in May, even though Allums had previously stated in an interview with outsports.com that he was planning to undergo the procedure.
Smith denied Delamartinez’s claim.
“Just recently, she told me that GW, or the media department or whatever, kind of prepped her before [the press conference] and said it’s better not to tell people that you’re having surgery in May, because you’ll have them wondering about your parts or what you have, what you don’t and just asking too many questions about the surgery,” Delamartinez said. “They would tell her this under the guise of, I guess, concern, which as I look back at it now, to me it’s not concern… they just wanted the story to die, and this story’s not gonna die with somebody having surgery that major in May.”
Delamartinez backed off statements she’d made earlier in the week in interviews with outsports.com and The Washington Post in which she complained that Allums was being held out of games despite feeling better. Delamartinez said that in subsequent conversations with Allums, the guard admitted that he still suffers some lingering effects from concussions he sustained earlier this season.