Monday, March 12, 2007
Updated: March 21, 1:08 PM ET
LSU saga raises trust issues
By Jemele Hill
I swear this is not a gay issue.
This is a trust issue.
If the allegations are true that Pokey Chatman left LSU because of an inappropriate relationship with a former player, sexuality should be the least of anyone's concerns.
Details still are trickling in, but all the news stories I've read made sure to point out that LSU's current players were never compromised.
But I ask this in all seriousness: Does it matter?
We don't know when Chatman began this relationship, but the fact that she left LSU in such a rush certainly gives us a possible answer to that key question.
Chatman appears to have violated the precious trust between player and coach. And if that is true, she should not coach at LSU or any other school.
It's unfortunate because we see far too much of this in women's athletics, where unethical relationships between players and coaches seemed to be fostered, not condemned.
When I say "unethical relationships," I'm not talking about women liking women, because men are equally guilty of crossing the line.
No one has ever stopped to question Brandi Chastain, Julie Foudy and Jackie Joyner-Kersee about marrying their coaches (Chastain and Foudy both later married their college coaches), instead choosing to focus on what cutesy copy it makes for Valentine's Day.
I'm sure all the aforementioned couples are deeply in love, but the fact that few eyebrows have been raised about these relationships lets me know that the message has been sent that it's OK for coaches and players to hook up. When it's a male coach and female player, that is.
When parents send their children to college and entrust them to a coach, the last thing they need to worry about it is whether their daughter is being checked out in the lay-up line.
Not that this doesn't exist at the pro level. Upon coming out, Sheryl Swoopes also disclosed she was in a relationship with the former assistant coach with the Houston Comets, Alisa Scott. Wonder how Swoopes' backup felt about that.
At the professional level, you could argue that what happens between adults is fair game, but it shouldn't be tolerated at all because coaches carry such powerful influence and it ultimately creates an insurmountable amount of chaos, questions and suspicion.
If you are LSU athletic director Skip Bertman, this is what is running through your mind:
If Chatman began a relationship with this former player after she left LSU, did that mean Chatman was attracted to her when she was a player? If it began while the player in question was still active, did other players know about it? And how did Chatman use her role as coach to, maybe, encourage the relationship?
You open those doors, and things can go to some scary places. Chatman has no excuses for what she did. And her abrupt departure indicates she has no excuses to offer. In fact, Chatman is lucky she isn't a man, or she would be subject to the same vilification Larry Eustachy and Mike Price endured for their inappropriate behavior. Coaches always must be held to a higher standard and if Chatman thinks that's unfair, she shouldn't have become a coach.
But since the homosexuality aspect of this undoubtedly will surface, let's talk about it for a minute.
Yes, there are lesbian coaches and players in women's college basketball and the WNBA. Most of them aren't having inappropriate, unethical relationships. But Chatman has just reinforced the stereotype that gay people are predators, and now those who have done nothing wrong will face increased and unwarranted scrutiny. How inappropriate.
Jemele Hill, a Page 2 columnist and writer for ESPN The Magazine, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.