Two New York high school boys basketball coaches — one straight and one gay — will be missing from the gym tonight when their teams play one another. Chris DiCintio, coach of Somers High School, and Anthony Nicodemo, coach of Saunders High School, have been suspended for the opening game of the season due to a technicality during their support of LGBTQ athletes earlier this year.
The suspensions stem from an LGBTQ Pride event held last January featuring the Somers and Saunders basketball teams. Funds were raised through the event for the local chapter of GLSEN. When it came to light that Nicodemo hadn’t filled out the proper paperwork for the event, the local governing body — Section One — saw an opportunity to punish Nicodemo for his vocal opposition to other issues.
So the geniuses at Section One decided to take the extreme measure of suspending both Nicodemo and DiCintio for the first game of the season, bringing accusations of lack of transparency and homophobia for the chilling targeting of an LGBTQ inclusion event.
The two coaches then decided to play their first games of the 2018-19 season against one another, so that both teams experienced the same disadvantage.
“We thought it was appropriate, since we were going to be suspended, to bring the kids together to show that we stand by the fact that both programs wanted to raise awareness,” DiCintio said.
To be sure, DiCintio thinks the suspension is largely a way to retaliate against a coach who has been vocal about protecting opportunities for the high school basketball players in the area. DiCintio said targeting an LGBTQ inclusion event for that retaliation could not have been more misdirected
“I don’t think they went about it the right way,” DiCintio said. “This was not the event to make a stand on getting back at a coach. This was not the event to bring that out. It looks bad. I think it could have been done a better way.”
One of the most powerful parts of the inclusion event for DiCintio was that it gave him the opportunity to make crystal clear with his team that any of them could come to him if they were struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity, and he would accept them.
The biggest problem with Section One’s targeting of the LGBT inclusion event, according to DiCintio, is the chilling effect their childish punishment will have on kids struggling with their own sexuality.
“When someone like me gets suspended for this event, kids who see me supporting it may think ‘oh you know, see, this is what happens,’ and if they do have an issue with their sexual orientation they are more apt to keep it inside because ‘good guys finish last.’”
This January the inclusion event will be back, but this season it’s going to be bigger. There will be eight teams — four high school and four college — playing one another on Jan. 19, with other inclusion events scheduled around the game. Fundraising efforts again going to the local Hudson Valley chapter of GLSEN. And this time, Nicodemo will make sure every “i” is dotted and every “t” is crossed.