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Ex-Penn
State player threatens suit over alleged antilesbian bias

Ex-Penn
State player threatens suit over alleged antilesbian bias

Ratcheting up a feud over alleged sexual bias in the Penn State women's basketball program, an ex-player vowed Monday to sue if the school does not retract recent remarks by the coach. Coach Rene Portland said in a statement last week that Jennifer Harris had a poor attitude and work ethic and did not meet team performance standards on or off the court. A lawyer for Harris called the statement "retaliatory" and gave the university until Wednesday to retract it or face a lawsuit. According to the lawyer, Harris compiled about a 3.0 grade point average in a psychology-pre-med program and was among the team leaders in scoring, assists, and steals. "Despite Ms. Harris's high performance, Coach Portland accused Harris of being a lesbian, harassed Harris for the way she looked and dressed, and eventually terminated her from the team because of her race, gender, and perceived sexual orientation," lawyer Karen Doering of the National Center for Lesbian Rights said in a statement. Harris transferred to James Madison University in the spring. She is not a lesbian but was perceived as one by Portland, NCLR has said. According to Penn State, Harris never raised bias complaints to university officials who handle diversity issues but instead went straight to the media last week with her accusations. University spokesman Bill Mahon said the school has no plans to stifle Portland, the threat of a lawsuit notwithstanding. "To demand that we take an individual's free speech away from them is wrong," Mahon said Monday. "I'm sure it's normal for anybody to respond when allegations are made against them in the front pages of newspapers." The university is now beginning an investigation into the matter, he said. He said he knew of no similar accusations being made against Portland in her 25 years at Penn State. Harris--lacking a retraction--will abandon her plan to settle the matter without a lawsuit and add retaliation and defamation claims to her original discrimination claim, Doering said. Portland has a 578-204 record at Penn State and has led the school to five Big Ten championships and made an NCAA Final Four appearance in 2000. She said last week that Harris was not committed to the sport. "She engaged in disrespectful, profane, and belligerent behavior toward coaches and teammates, and she exhibited a work ethic and attitude that were unsatisfactory and detrimental to the success of our team," Portland said. Harris started in 22 games for Penn State, averaging 10.4 points per game. She was third on the team in points (313), steals (38), and assists (42). (AP)

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