STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- A former Penn State women's basketball
player filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against coach Rene
Portland on Wednesday.
The lawsuit by former player Jennifer Harris filed in federal
district court in Harrisburg accused Portland of discrimination
based on race, gender and sexual orientation. The university and
athletic director Tim Curley were also named as defendants.
Harris, who is black, said in the filing that Portland
repeatedly asked her to change her appearance to look more
"In pursuing her discriminatory policy -- known as 'no drinking,
no drugs, no lesbians' -- Ms. Portland has particularly targeted
players who are African-American," Harris' attorneys wrote in the
lawsuit, according to a copy of the filing provided by one of her
lawyers, Karen Doering, of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
Harris' attorneys have said that while the player is not gay,
she was perceived to be gay by her former coach.
A spokeswoman for Portland declined comment Wednesday night,
saying the coach had not seen the lawsuit. In earlier statements,
Portland has maintained that Harris' departure was purely a
basketball-related decision and firmly denied that any racial or
gender discrimination was involved.
"My career has been built on treating all Lady Lion players
with respect," she said in a statement last month after Harris
filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.
"I will continue to do so."
Portland has said that Harris was disrespectful toward coaches
and teammates and alleged that her work ethic was "unsatisfactory
and detrimental to the success of the team."
University spokesman Tysen Kendig also declined comment
Wednesday, saying he was not aware that a lawsuit had been filed.
Penn State announced an internal investigation after Harris first
made the accusations in October.
Doering said that Harris filed the federal lawsuit in part
because of the statute of limitations on some of her accusations,
which span at least a couple of years, and because they had not
heard from Portland, who is not being represented by university
Harris alleged in the lawsuit that Portland "harassed and
targeted" other black athletes and that the coach had told team
members not to associate with some players.
Harris transferred after the 2004-5 season after finishing as
the team's third-leading scorer at 10.4 points. She is redshirting
at James Madison.