An athletics department campaign is stressing the University’s commitment to discrimination-free recruitment.
“If you can play, you can play,” the video begins, establishing the University’s position that athletes will be judged solely by how well they perform and not by other factors, like sexual orientation.
The You Can Play Project, a nonprofit that seeks to ensure fairness and support for LGBT athletes nationwide, establishes a culture of tolerance on campuses and in locker rooms, sending a clear message to all student-athletes that they are supported. The athletic department, under athletic director Patrick Nero, stresses a culture of inclusion that could inspire more universities to establish their own advocacy campaigns.
But then again, GW had the opportunity to be a national model for this cause in its not-so-distant past. And it dropped the ball.
In fall 2010, women’s basketball player Kye Allums came out as transgender, making history as the first openly transgender player ever in NCAA Division 1 Athletics.
After Allums’ announcement, he became an international role model for LGBT athletes. The University and its athletics department – then headed by Jack Kvancz – were the first to be tasked with supporting a transgender Division 1 athlete. Not only did they have a tremendous obligation to foster a culture of inclusion and support, but they could have offered a model for supporting LGBT athletes and ensuring that if someone can play, he or she can play.
The University could have immediately hired a psychologist to help Allums, the basketball team and then-head coach Mike Bozeman make the adjustment to both Allums’ announcement and the publicity the program was receiving. But Bozeman told Sports Illustrated the University did not bring in a psychologist until the spring. The University could have encouraged Allums to share his story with the world, but Allums’ mother Rolanda Delamartinez told The Hatchet the University barred her son from speaking to the media.
The University is not always proactive about sharing information, but that was a time when it needed to be transparent and supportive. Going forward, GW should make sure to fully embrace and support its players, not just emotionally, but also by providing instruction on how to handle public reactions and the media.
Since the Sports Illustrated article published in May, Allums has called his GW experience supportive.
“They wanted me to be happy,” Allums said in the Fearless Project video. “They cared about my feelings, and they wanted me to be in a comfortable environment where I could perform well.”
These recent comments might seem to contradict Allums’ remarks to Sports Illustrated, but instead they reflect the intricacy of the situation. The athletics department and the women’s basketball team are both under new leadership, and it is encouraging to see athletic director Patrick Nero making LGBT inclusion a hallmark of his term.
It is encouraging to see the University taking such an active stance to support LGBT athletes.
Annu Subramanian, a senior majoring in journalism, is a Hatchet senior columnist and The Hatchet’s former opinions editor.