August 16, 2018

Hallowed Ground

Photo courtesy of the Omaha World-Herald

On Wednesday, the University of Nebraska announced that Ron Brown would be named the new director of player development for the Nebraska Football Program. Brown previously coached at Liberty University, and returns to Nebraska after coaching in multiple roles over a 24 year stretch in Lincoln, ending in 2014. Brown’s hiring has garnered praise from new Head Coach Scott Frost, along with former Husker greats Will Compton and Matt Davison, who have proclaimed profound impacts on their lives from Brown during their playing days at Nebraska.

This article does not discredit the impact Brown may or may not have had on their particular playing days at Nebraska, but sheds light on the limited scope his public speech, demeanor and direction can play within the confines of a public institution, along with its potentially lethal drawbacks.

In 2012, Ron Brown (during his previous stint on the Nebraska football staff) appeared at an Omaha City Council Meeting, where an anti-discrimination bill was appearing before the council. The bill, protecting LGBT persons from being discriminated against in workplace or other settings, was proposed to promote a safe and inclusive place for residents, workers and business in Omaha.

In his council testimony, Brown questioned the discernment of the council members, and what content they’ve been fed to lead toward their judgment. Citing scripture, Brown stated homosexuality is a sin, while questioning the individual council member’s personal relationships with God. Although Brown took time out of his night to drive 58 miles from One Memorial Stadium Drive in Lincoln to Omaha City Hall, he never once contemplated why such an ordinance would exist, protecting persons from discrimination, or whether it was their jobs to use religious judgement on city matters.

For many LGBT youth and young adults (many of whom pad up for practice every day at a variety of levels in football) the truth of their sexual orientation can become a distraction, a heavy burden, or even a cause for depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. Whether these young people choose to act based upon their orientation, the reality of their truth (which cannot change, regardless of religious belief or spiritual discernment) lies deep within, causing guilt and anguish in an already tumultuous time of their lives. In these moments, young persons (of all orientation) look toward leaders, whether they be parents, teachers, coaches or clergy.

Mr. Brown’s role as the Director of Player Development is solely meant to play a profound impact on young student athletes whose most formidable years in life are played under bright lights of the big stage of college football. The pressure placed on these college athletes, juggling school and athletics, while in the spotlight can be heavy and sometimes very difficult to bear. The role played by a Director of Player Development is profound, and should never be taken lightly.

Now add the increased level of guilt, confusion and pressure on a college athlete who may be closeted or open with their sexuality. Mr. Brown, with his very public role in the Husker community, who has publicly stated (on the record) that these persons should not be protected from basic discrimination in their communities. This man, tasked with developing great people at a public (non-religious institution), has publicly stated that these persons do not deserve to be respected, loved, or treated with human dignity in the places they live their lives.

It can be assumed that over the last 20+ years of Mr. Brown’s career, he held positions in which he was directly tasked with molding and shaping thousands of young men in various football programs. It can be said with almost certainty that some of these players in these locker rooms, receiving direct instruction and guidance from Mr. Brown were of LGBT persuasion or identity, at no fault of their own. The tone and environment shown in 2010 and 2012 interviews with Mr. Brown show one of volatility and shame, which would be detrimental to the development of a young student athlete.

Allowing Mr. Brown to take the Director of Player Development position within the Nebraska football program makes a loud statement of the values and morals that will be taught and professed inside One Memorial Stadium Drive. These are values and morals that are not inclusive, are not loving, and speak of intolerance of anyone not prescribed to a particular interpretation of Christianity. These teachings have caused countless LGBT youth and young adults to fall astray, or in worst case scenarios, take their own lives. These persons only performed these actions to avoid the shame and humiliation of these interpreted teachings of Christianity, because they had nowhere else to turn.

Cities like Omaha and Lincoln have implemented anti-discrimination laws, to protect themselves from dangerous people, in high positions, like Mr. Brown.

At the end of the day, the Christian faith is based in love, and all LGBT persons should feel the love and grace of the Lord. The bigger question that must be asked across the Cornhusker State, a state in which football is a religion of its own: Is the Church of Devaney, Osborne, and now Frost, one of love and compassion, or one of hatred and shame?

If the Cathedral of Osborne at One Memorial Stadium Drive is that place of love and compassion, Mr. Brown will not hold office within its hallowed grounds.

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