On Tuesday I speculated that Bev Kearney, who resigned last weekend as women’s track coach at the University of Texas over an affair with a student-athlete 10 years ago, may have been treated unfairly by the school because of her sexual orientation. In other words, while the relationship was clearly inappropriate — a fact which Kearney herself acknowledges — would she have been forced to step down if she were a Hall of Fame male coach who’d won six national championships and whose affair with a female athlete was brought to light a decade later?
Coincidentally, just as I was posting my item, Kearney was appearing on CNN’s Starting Point, where she would essentially go public with the same question.
“Is it because I have a disability? Is it because I’m black? Is it because I’m female? Is it because I’m successful? Is it now because of my sexual preference?” Kearney asked CNN’s Soledad O’Brien. “I had to finally come to embrace not knowing why, and I had to embrace it because the more you try to figure out why, the harder it is to forgive.”
In the clip below, Kearney acknowledges that the affair may have come to the school’s attention last fall because her former lover “ratted her out.” Kearney also says at the time of the affair in 2002, she had not been aware of a recently enacted UT policy which said only that she was required to disclose such a relationship to her superiors or be subject to discipline. The university placed Kearney on leave and began investigating the relationship in the fall of 2012.
“Throughout the whole process, the disclosure part was never brought to me as to why I was being terminated,” Kearney said. “I was being terminated as a result of the relationship, and at that point, I said then, ‘Has everyone else been terminated as a point of reference of having had a relationship?’ And the answer was, ‘We don’t view those the same as yours.’
“I don’t see how you distinguish between the value of one student over another because of what they do, whether it’s a musician, a musical student, a business student or an athlete,” Kearney added. “I think the one thing that I hired an attorney for is not to deny, because the moment it was brought to my attention, I openly admitted to its existence, and so it was never to deny, it was just to guarantee I was given equal treatment because I had grown to not trust the university that I served in terms of equal treatment.”
Let’s hope Kearney’s attorney is able to find answers to some of these questions. The fact is that university athletic departments are notoriously homophobic, and lesbian college basketball coaches, for example, often feel compelled to remain in the closet due to the fear that having an openly gay coach could hurt recruiting.
As I mentioned yesterday, there are no LGBT employment protections in Texas. However, legal experts say the constitutional principle of equal protection prohibits government employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation.