I was so pleased last month when I read about the University of Missouri having a gay (club) lacrosse coach for their men's team. There was a little bit of controversy but at the time of the article it seemed that most of the team was on board, along with the university. Not so much anymore. Hawkins has been fired.
The article's sub-headline reads: Student-run lacrosse team lets gay coach go, says sexuality was not an issue.
The team asked Hawkins to resign and when he refused they fired him. Because lacrosse is a club sport the team has the power to make these decisions. Apparently they wanted to do it last year but because Hawkins had just come out they felt it would have looked like they were making the decision based on his homosexuality.
A year didn't really make that much of a difference--it still seems pretty clear from the weak reasons they provided, that there was discomfort with Hawkins being gay.
Karen Mitchell, a graduate student who serves as one of the team's advisors apparently (she was part of the conversations about letting Hawkins go at the very least), said the issue of sexuality never came up in the discussions; that it was all about his coaching abilities and the way he ran practices. That seems to be what everyone is saying so they can sleep at night. Hawkins's win-loss record over his nine years was very strong and he has built a national reputation as a coach.
But Mitchell makes abstract statements about "concerns" and "comments" from players and parents. And one of the reasons Hawkins was given for his firing was that he did not represent the team or the university well on the road.
So while it could very well be true that in the meetings the issue of Hawkins being gay was never mentioned. But everyone was certainly thinking about it, and there is no knowing what was actually said among players and even among advisors and players. There are plenty of ways of talking around a subject and still conveying exactly what you need to without ever coming across as anti-gay.
But the team and its advisors are naive if they really think that a coach who received national attention--and a lot of support--when he came out can be fired the next year without a lot of press and a lot of speculation that this was not what it really was: a decision based on homophobia.
And it looks like the attention will only grow. ESPN is planning a segment on Hawkins that will air some time this month. If I find out more I will update.