women's basketball coach Rene Portland said Wednesday that a
former player's departure from the school was purely
basketball-related, firmly denying that any racial
discrimination was involved.
Portland, who earlier rejected an accusation of
discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in
the same case, issued a statement saying that she
"categorically and emphatically" denied the allegations.
"My career has been built on treating all Lady Lion players
with respect," she said. "I will continue to do so."
In paperwork filed last week with the
Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission to start a
complaint against Portland and the university, an
attorney for Jennifer Harris said her client was the victim
of "discrimination, retaliation, and harassment" on
the basis of sex and race. The documents were the
first to raise race as an issue. Portland had issued a
strongly worded statement denying the accusation of
discrimination based on sexual orientation after
allegations first surfaced last month.
Harris, who is black, said in the filing that
Portland "continually harassed me to change my
appearance and my image because she thought I was not
'feminine' enough." She transferred from Penn State after
last season and now attends James Madison.
Portland has declined to speak directly about
the Harris case. In her statement Wednesday, however,
she said without mentioning Harris by name that she
felt compelled to respond to the allegations of racial
discrimination. "The dismissal of the former player raising
these allegations was, and still is, a basketball
decision and the result of my responsibility to do
what is best for this team. Nothing else," Portland
said in what officials characterized as the coach's
Harris started 22 games for Penn State last
season and averaged 10.4 points, third best on the team.
Shannon Minter, a lawyer for the National Center
for Lesbian Rights, which is representing Harris,
maintained that while Harris has said she is not gay,
she was perceived to be gay by her coach, and that race was
also an issue.
Portland has said that Harris was disrespectful
toward coaches and teammates and had a work ethic that
was "unsatisfactory and detrimental to the success of
Besides Portland and the university, athletic
director Tim Curley is named in the complaint. The
university's affirmative action office is also