Should the NCAA be taking a position on the (reportedly) heavily lesbian fanbase headed to the women's Final Four in Tampa Bay this weekend? That's the subject of an article by Orlando Sentinel columnist Shannon Owens today, for which I was interviewed. We chatted for about a half hour on the subject yesterday and both came to the same conclusion: No.
"In [the] event of crowning [a] national championship, they have no responsibility other than to the women on the court and I would say that if it were any other group as well," said Cyd Zeigler, co-founder of the gay-based Web site outsports.com. "This weekend is about basketball and that's it and that's how it should be."
That is not to say the NCAA should ignore the issue of gay athletes, or even how gay fans are treated. Certainly, it's a great opportunity to talk about what more they could be doing for those athletes and fans: More sensitivity training for coaches, getting schools to stop anti-gay chants, taking a stronger position on anti-lesbian negative recruiting. And I think NCLR and other groups are doing that this weekend, which is great. But this weekend I'm glad the NCAA itself is focused on crowning national champions; And on Wednesday, when it's all over, I hope they take up the issues again.
On the flip side, the NCAA released this statement (according to several news sources) late last week in response to the media coverage of lesbians at the Final Four:
"To say any NCAA championship appeals to a certain percentage of a particular segment of the population, especially without any scientific backing, is without merit. The truth is each tournament appeals to a core group of fans but that core is as diverse as the American population itself."
It is true, and no I don't think anyone's done a study, but the statement definitely reads as rather disingenuous. -Cyd Zeigler jr.