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Lesbian-baiting Penn State basketball coach 'reprimanded'

Given the damage done by Penn State and the personal sacrifice of Jennifer Harris, the consequences faced by Rene Portland are insulting and inadequate.
— Kate Kendell, Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights

The investigation into anti-lesbian bias by Rene Portland of the Penn State’s womens basketball program has found she did indeed violate the diversity policy of the school, creating a hostile environment for Jennifer Harris, a six-foot guard on the Lady Lions basketball team from 2003 to 2005.

What did the school do to Portland? She got a letter of reprimand and a fine. Do you think the results would have been different if her team consistently sucked? A mild proposal to suspend her from one game was deep-sixed, for crap’s sake! (

The results of the probe were announced Tuesday by Penn State president Graham Spanier who said Portland has been given a letter of reprimand that will become a permanent part of her official personnel file, but no further immediate action against her is planned.

Spanier said that the letter informed Portland that should there be any future instance of so-called lesbian-baiting, she would be fired as coach.

…Harris alleges that Portland repeatedly questioned her about her sexual orientation, repeatedly threatened to kick Harris off the team if she found out Harris was a lesbian, and eventually told other players not to associate with Harris because she believed that Harris was gay. In 2005, Coach Portland abruptly told Harris to find somewhere else to play. Harris transferred to James Madison University.

…Harris was also disappointed by Spanier’s statement. “Penn State did not take the allegations seriously and does not appear interested in solving the underlying problem,” she said in a statement.

…In his statement Tuesday Spanier said that Portland must participate in a diversity program but he rejected a recommendation from investigators that she receive a one-game suspension. Instead he is imposing a $10,000 fine on her.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding