On Monday, the NCAA announced the bracket for the 2012 Women’s Tournament. To no one’s surprise, undefeated Baylor University received the overall No. 1 seed, followed by regional No. 1 seeds, Stanford, University of Connecticut and Notre Dame.
Baylor and Notre Dame both have some of the highest profile and most impressive players in the country: Brittney Griner (Baylor) and Skylar Diggins (Notre Dame).
Other similarities include both universities being proudly based in religious tradition; Baptist and Catholic respectively. And, both have (not so proudly,) checkered histories in relation to their LGBT students. Boo.
Baylor classifies homosexual acts under its “sexual misconduct” policy along with “sexual abuse, sexual harassment, sexual assault, incest, adultery, fornication.” Students, as well as faculty members, are subject to disciplinary action for engaging in homosexual acts.
Notre Dame has its own history of marginalizing their LGBT students. Yes, in 1997, the school added a “statement of inclusion” that specifically named gay and lesbian students, and now has a “Core Council” in its student affairs office specifically for LGBT students. But Notre Dame has also refused to add sexual orientation to its non-discrimination clause, despite renewed calls to do so from students. And they continue to deny students approval to form an official gay-straight alliance group on campus.
These schools are not the only ones in the tournament with suspect or downright horrendous track records when it comes to LGBT students. In fact, Notre Dame opens the tournament against Liberty University which was founded by Jerry, the-gays-are-responsible-for-September-11-and-Hurricane-Katrina, Falwell.
While the NCAA dictates many aspects of the participating universities’ eligibility, they do not currently take any action against schools for discriminating against individuals based on sexual orientation. These schools, for now, are acting entirely within their rights as far as the NCAA, (and the government) is concerned. Does a school’s inclusion or exclusion of LGBT people factor into who you cheer for in a tournament like this?
Rooting interests in sports are complicated. They’re often so emotionally ingrained, we can’t even explain why we like this team and hate that one. Personally, and in spite of their Catholic underpinnings and very sketchy record with the gays, I often root for Notre Dame because growing up, my best friend and his dad rooted for them. It’s not rational. It’s fond memories and history. It’s spending my weekends watching football at their house and always rooting for Notre Dame. It’s a childhood connection that’s hard to shake, despite my disagreeing with their discrimination policy.
On the other hand, I have no problem actively rooting against Baylor. I hope they lose, and lose big, every time they play. They have such a bad record when it comes to gays and lesbians. Same goes for Liberty – I hope Notre Dame smokes them in the first round. I’m not so naïve as to think these schools care a bit about whether I root for them or pick them in my bracket, but it makes me feel good to cheer against schools that I know are intolerant. It may be madness, but it’s March Madness.
What about you? Do the policies of universities color how you perceive their teams? Does it change which teams you support and which teams you don’t?