We live in a changing society. Even 20 years ago it was still not fully acceptable to be in love with a person of the same gender as you. We were coming around to our more sensible side in the 90′s, but we weren’t there yet — and some people still aren’t there even today. That’s the case with what could become a large discrimination scandal at VCU, as longtime volleyball coach James Finley is claiming he was fired for being gay by his homophobic AD Ed McLaughlin.
Finley has some credible evidence to suggest his firing last Monday was motivated by discrimination of his sexual orientation. Finley had been the VCU women’s volleyball coach for eight years, and had recently led the team to a 25-6 record in a tough Atlantic 10, earning a trip to the national semifinals. Finley says it’s not the loss in the semifinals but the fact that he’s gay, and openly gay at that, which led to his firing.
“From the beginning he interacted with other coaches, staffs, other teams.” Finley said of McLaughlin. “He participated [with them], and with ours he didn’t… At booster events, he avoided me whenever I was there. [I'd be] having a conversation with him and he’d walk away when I was trying to talk to him. I’d say ‘Hi’ and he’d look up at me, and put his head back down and not acknowledge me.”
And this wasn’t a player motivated or supported move either. According to GayRVA.com, many players including Kristen Boyd were put off and concerned about the language McLaughlin was using to describe Finley.
“The AD said he ‘wanted the best for us.’ He’s new here and for him to come in and say that made us uncomfortable.” Boyd said. “He didn’t even know us. He never came to any of our games – he never did anything, but he went to other people’s games and never went to ours… How could he know what’s best for us if he doesn’t know us as a group of girls?”
Boyd said that Finley’s players weren’t afraid to stand up for him if they have to, as McLaughlin’s comments were not only out of line, but they were counterintuitive to the point he was trying to make.
“He said ‘We want someone to better represent the school,’ and coach had never done anything to misrepresent the school – he’s always very appropriate and nice to people, even when people are rude to him. I’ve never seen him in my 5 years misrepresent the school in any way.”
Finley isn’t the only gay member of the school’s faculty or staff and he’s also not the first to see his sexual orientation effect his job title. Finley cites that earlier last month, Pat Stauffer was demoted from Senior Women’s Administrator to Sr. Associate AD even after her solid 30-year history with the program. Finley says that the reason behind it revolved around Stauffer being on open lesbian and it didn’t take long for him to connect the dots.
“If one thing happens, OK, it happens; but if it happens a second time, it’s a pattern,” said Finley when he connected the dots. The lack of interaction all season and the circumstances of his dismissal became suspect.”
McLaughlin had no comment on the situation, but is apparently standing by his decision. The NCAA also hasn’t said anything on the matter but the university is investigating Finley’s claims.