Ron Brown Backs Down, But Still Hasn’t Learned

Remember Ron Brown?

He’s the University of Nebraska assistant football coach who believes very strongly in the literal truth of the Bible. So strongly, in fact, that he spoke at a City Council meeting in Omaha back in March, opposing a law that would have banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Brown has a long history of using his platform as a coach in a prestigious football program to trumpet his bigotry, leading a number of journalists and a member of the Lincoln Board of Education to call for Brown’s firing. While he certainly has a right to his opinions, however vile, the intermingling of Cornhusker football with Brown’s Bible-based message is illegal and violates the University’s own anti-discrimination policy.

It seems that all the attention Brown has gotten on the subject is finally starting to drive that point home. On Saturday, Brown told the Lincoln Journal-Star that he would not testify regarding a proposed Lincoln ordinance similar to the one in Omaha (which ultimately passed).

Unfortunately, it’s a clear-cut case of “right outcome, wrong reasons.” Brown stated that he’s choosing not to testify so as not to draw attention away from the discussion over the ordinance:

“A number of fellow Christians who have been working on legislation and working on the nuts and bolts of this issue told me, ‘Look, there’s going to be so much media attention over you, it’s going to take away from the issue,’” Brown told the Journal Star.

Although he acknowledges that he was wrong to give the Memorial Stadium address as his own when testifying in Omaha, Brown also refuses to admit the need for separation between his personal views and his conduct in the workplace. In a letter to Journal-Star readers, Brown says:

Not all of my players have agreed with the Bible’s views. One example, of many, would be those choosing heterosexual sex outside of marriage. Though the Bible teaches this as sin, I haven’t penalized them with playing time or discrimination of any sort. Because I love them, I’ve invested in them even outside of football and gently asked them to consider God’s view on it.

If I coached a gay player, because the Bible says homosexuality is a sin, I would do the same. If he didn’t agree, I wouldn’t penalize him with playing time or any form of discrimination.

What Brown is failing (or refusing) to recognize is that such requests, however gentle, are still discriminatory. I applaud (sarcastically) his insistence that he wouldn’t penalize a player for disagreeing with him, but that’s not the issue at hand. The issue is that Brown is creating a hostile, unwelcoming environment for players who don’t acknowledge the moral authority of his Bible, and he’s doing it in his capacity as coach.

Unless Ron Brown can drive a clear wedge between his private opinions and his relationship with his players, the University of Nebraska should absolutely fire him. Even if Brown demonstrates a renewed commitment to leaving the God-talk at the locker room door, I’d argue that he has too many strikes against him. Brief episode of good judgment aside, Brown’s fundamental attitudes aren’t going to change anytime soon, and it’s time for the University of Nebraska to step up and do right by its LGBT students.

About Megan Wells

Megan Wells is an IT tech and sports blogger in Chicago.

  • Falconer33

    I live in Nebraska and trying to do ANYTHING that could potentially harm the Huskers is a capital offense. When it comes to that team, religious fundamentalists could take lessons from the fans.

  • http://wordsideasandthings.blogspot.com/ Garren

    Brown would _like_ to be fired over this. He says it would be an “honor”:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/26/ron-brown-nebraska-football-coach-anti-gay-views_n_1455712.html

    As a Lincoln resident, I can tell you the anti-discrimination ordinance is top of discussion this week. Yesterday’s forum for public comments was hoppin’ even with Brown sitting out:

    http://journalstar.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/anti-discrimination-hearing-draws-packed-house/article_ea863373-ea3a-5cae-bee9-7efc1ac99718.html

    Can’t find confirmation at the moment, but I think the Council is voting on this next Monday, despite all sorts of complaints about it being unfair that we don’t get to vote whether to treat people fairly.

    • aleopold

       That’s been my understanding as well. 

      Lincoln and Omaha are certainly the more liberal areas of the state.  I sincerely hope that they vote in the right direction.

  • Kevin S.

    Wouldn’t being a biblical literalist make it impossible to be involved with organized football, you know what with touching the skin of dead pigs and wearing blended fibers and all?  Oh, you mean Brown only cares about the parts that justify his bigotry?  Oh, okay, got it.

    • Stev84

       Maybe he wears gloves

  • I_Claudia

    This fig-leaf that some Christians use of “Oh we think homosexuality is just another sin, like premarital sex!” is a transparent lie.

    If they actually believed that both were just equal sins, they would spend virtually no time on fighting gay rights. If you consider how many people have premarital heterosexual sex (that would be almost all heterosexuals, even the Christian ones) vs. how much gay sex is going on, the gay stuff would hardly register. Yet there is no effort to make pre-marital sex illegal. There is no complaining about pre-marital sex ruining the fabric of society or claiming that a marriage between two people having pre-marital sex isn’t a real marriage.

    They can say that they are just two sins all they want, but it’s obvious that one seems to merit more condemnation and discrimination in their eyes. Coincidentally, it happens to be the sin they aren’t likely to do and thus don’t have to deal with discrimination for.

  • http://eskeptrical.blogspot.com/ Eskeptrical Engineer

    Does everyone remember Keith Bardwell, the Louisiana justice of the peace who refused to marry interracial couples, but denied being a racist, saying that he had “piles and piles” of black friends and he even let them use the bathroom? And most of us thought “Wait, why would it even occur to you to mention that you let them use the bathroom? Is that really something that crossed your mind?”

    I feel that way about Brown denying that he would penalize gay players with less playing time. The fact that he would mention it seems to reveal that he’s thought about it. 


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