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Former Penn State
basketball player files discrimination lawsuit

Former Penn State
basketball player files discrimination lawsuit

Jenniferharris

The lawsuit, filed by former player Jennifer Harris (pictured) in federal district court, accuses her former coach, Rene Portland, of discrimination based on race, gender, and sexual orientation.

A former Penn State women's basketball player filed a federal discrimination lawsuit Wednesday against coach Rene Portland. The suit, filed by former player Jennifer Harris in federal district court in Harrisburg, Pa., accuses 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 "feminine." "In pursuing her discriminatory policy--known as 'no drinking, no drugs, no lesbians'--Ms. Portland has particularly targeted players who are African-American," Harris's 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's attorneys have said that while the player is not lesbian, she was perceived to be lesbian by her former coach. Representatives of Portland and Curley declined comment Wednesday night, saying they had not seen the lawsuit. University spokesman Tysen Kendig also declined comment Wednesday, saying he was not aware that a lawsuit had been filed. In earlier statements Portland has maintained that Harris's 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." 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 attorneys. 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 2004-2005 season after finishing as the team's third-leading scorer at 10.4 points. She is redshirting at James Madison University. The Lady Lions are rebuilding this year and head into Thursday's game against St. Francis with a 5-5 record. (AP)

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