When Scott Frost hired coach Ron Brown to oversee player development and work with the school’s Life Skills program, the Nebraska football program stepped squarely into a long history of anti-LGBTQ discrimination in both the Christian religion and sports.
When he was a coach at Nebraska years ago, Brown used his position at the school to advocate for legalizing discrimination against gay people, even listing his address as Memorial Stadium. Brown is a devout Christian who has said his purpose in football is to spread the word of God.
It’s understandable why concern and criticism have come to Frost and Nebraska over the hiring. Beyond Brown’s own words, football in particular has long been held up as an inhospitable place for gay men in particular. While there are many examples of out gay men totally accepted by their teammates and coaches in the sport, and even at FBS schools like Arizona and Kansas State, the assumption by many gay athletes is that they will not be accepted on their football team. This is based on decades of language, bullying and other issues in the sport.
Despite hiring literally the poster-coach for homophobia, Frost has said he and the Nebraska football team stand for inclusion. Of course he didn’t say the words “gay” or “LGBTQ” in his media-day statements, which undermined his message. Because of the long history of homophobia in sports, unless the LGBTQ community is specifically mentioned by name in diversity and inclusion conversations, gay athletes feel the support doesn’t apply to them.
That’s OK. Actions speak louder than words anyway. Here are three simple actions Frost and the team can take immediately to further Frost’s stated objective of LGBTQ inclusion.
- At the Sept. 1 home game against Akron, have a member of the team come out of the tunnel with the team carrying a giant rainbow flag. The team already carries several flags. Adding a rainbow flag would send a massive statement of inclusion.
- Invite out gay former Nebraska Cornhuskers football player Eric Lueshen to speak to the players, and afford him the opportunity to sit down and have a private dialogue with Ron Brown. The conversation with the team should be preceded by remarks from Frost that the team is completely accepting of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
- Put a rainbow sticker on the door of every coach on the Nebraska football team, expressing support for gay athletes and LGBTQ people on and around the team.
These three steps are so easy, it’s impossible to think a serious head coach who just hired the poster coach for anti-gay discrimination would balk at any of them.
The ball is now in Frost’s hands. He can back up his words with actions, or he can let inclusion at the Nebraska football team become a hollow talking point. Given how easy these three steps are to execute, it’s hard to believe a head coach with a track record of achieving results wouldn’t take them.
For more Nebraska Cornhuskers news, visit Corn Nation.