There are two proud traditions at Baylor University seemingly every spring: playing in March Madness, and being exposed on Outsports for its history of anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
The Baylor Bears enter this year’s men’s tournament as a No. 3 seed and the women’s tournament as a No. 7 seed, respectively. They won the championship on the men’s side just two years ago, and could embark on another run this month — despite their 2-4 finish.
A private conservative Baptist university, Baylor’s official school policy describes marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Homosexuality is such a taboo topic on campus, Brittney Griner says her former coach Kim Mulkey forbid her from publicizing her sexual orientation.
It’s worth noting that Mulkey, who now coaches at LSU, initially refused to comment on Griner’s release from a Russian penal colony.
But the problems at Baylor go well beyond Mulkey. Emily Nkosi, another former Baylor basketball player, wrote in an Outsports essay that she thinks her former coach is “unfairly singled out” for her homophobia.
Nkosi says Mulkey was a product of the school’s culture.
“In my experience, she did not express opinions that were different from the dominant belief system held in that community,” she writes. “My fear of coming out at Baylor came from millions of directions.”
Baylor has made incremental steps over the last couple of years to become more welcoming for LGBTQ students, at least on the surface. Last April, the school finally granted its first charter to an LGBTQ student group after months of listening sessions and debate.
The group’s co-president called the move a “baby step” for the 175-year-old university. While that’s true, it’s still not enough to change the narrative about their treatment of LGBTQ students.
Oral Roberts University, a No. 12 seed in the men’s tourney, is even more exclusionary than Baylor. Let’s start here: the school’s honor code bans gays.
“At ORU, we pledge not to engage in or attempt to engage in any illicit, or unscriptural sexual acts, which includes any homosexual activity and sexual intercourse with one who is not a spouse and, we pledge not be united in marriage other than a marriage between one man and one woman,” it reads.
Like other religious institutions, Oral Roberts gets to skirt certain Title IX requirements. Former students recently filed a lawsuit against those exemptions, only for an Oklahoma court to strike down their case.
One of those plaintiffs, Andrew Hartzler, wrote a harrowing account of his experience as a closeted gay student at ORU for Politico. He says the school’s president, Dr. William Wilson, preached at a school service that homosexuals who act on their urges are “put to death.”
Two years ago, our Ken Schultz highlighted Oral Roberts’ gross history of homophobia when the Golden Eagles went on their Cinderella run and qualified for the Sweet 16.
It’s worth noting that athletes at Baylor and Oral Roberts didn’t institute their school’s onerous rules, and may not support them (though every student at ORU pledges to adhere to the honor code). These universities are being singled out for the sins of their administrators.
Maybe one day their basketball success won’t be marred by anti-gay rules and sentiments.