Lady Lions’ homophobic coach calls it quits

By | 2018-01-16T03:11:43+00:00 March 29th, 2007|News|

STATE COLLEGE, Pa – Penn State’s Renee Portland is calling it quits. The coach, who has been leading the Lady Lions basketball team for 27-years, handed in her resignation last Wednesday, and the school confirmed it Thursday.
Portland has been dogged by her homophobic statements and a lawsuit alleging she discriminated against former Penn State player Jennifer Harris. The lawsuit was settled late last year.
In April of last year a university investigation found she had violated the school’s non-discrimination policies and reprimanded Portland. She was fined $10,000 and ordered to undergo professional development training about diversity. She was also told future violations would result in her termination.
In a December 2005 lawsuit, Harris accused Portland of “humiliating, berating and ostracizing” her, and claimed she was told that she needed to look “more feminine.” The suit alleged Portland tried to force Harris, who says she is not gay, to leave the team.
Portland maintains she did nothing wrong, and the conflict with Harris revolved solely around basketball.
Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley refused to comment on what role the Harris case played in Portland’s departure, but Penn State officials deny the case had anything to do with the resignation.
“This did not have anything to do with the lawsuit to our knowledge,” Karen Doering, the attorney for Harris at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said Thursday regarding Portland’s resignation.
The Harris case is not the first time Portland has come under fire for her attitude on lesbians in sports. In 1986 she told the Chicago Sun-Times she didn’t allow lesbians to play on her team. In a 1991 story in The Philadelphia Inquirer, several former players, recruits and colleagues of Portland said the coach did not tolerate homosexuality among her players.
Penny Gardner says protests she helped to organize against Portland at Michigan State and U-M games helped shove Portland out the door. The protests Gardner organized were called Lavender Menace Actions, and resulted in scores of people attending the games wearing lavender t-shirts to protest Portland’s homophobia.
“I am very proud of what we at U-M and at MSU did to publicize the issue with our Lavender Menace action at the Penn State games,” the Lansing feminist told BTL. “After the first year at MSU, other Big Ten Universities also picked it up.”
Gardner is not fooled into believing Portland,Aeos exit will stop homophobia in women’s sports.
“Lesbophobia is alive and well in women’s sports,” she said. “It takes a multitude of actions by many people to make the changes we want to see.”
In a prepared statement Thursday Portland said, “I am very appreciative of the opportunity to coach at Penn State, which has become a special place for me and my family. I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish with the Lady Lion program through the years.”
The statement gave no reason for her resignation.
Portland leaves Penn State with a record of 606 wins to 236 losses. She was hired in 1980 by then Athletic director Joe Paterno. During her tenure she led the Lady Lions to 21 NCAA tournaments, and often vied for Big Ten Champs.

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