James Finley, the women’s volleyball coach at Virginia Commonwealth University, was laid off by the school despite delivering a 25-6 winning season. Now Finley, 52, says he got his walking papers because he’s gay and he’s filed a complaint with the school’s Office for Institutional Equity.
On November 19, Finley was told by athletic director Ed McLaughlin that his contract, which expired December 31, would not be renewed—but that it had nothing to do with his win-loss record. “For [someone to] meet with me for the first time and to tell me I’m not a good representative of the university—somebody that doesn’t even know me because he’s never made an effort to get to know me—there’s no other conclusion that I can come to other than that he just doesn’t want a gay person representing his athletic department,” Finley told the AP.
In a statement to the press, McLaughlin said: “I came to VCU because of how the university embraces diversity and inclusive excellence and fosters a community where differences are valued and respected. It is unfortunate that Mr. Finley feels the decision not to renew his contract was based on anything other than previously stated concerns about the volleyball program.”
But Finley says McLaughlin, who joined the staff in August 2012, had given him the cold shoulder since Day One—not acknowledging greetings and walking away whenever Finley joined a conversation. “We would take our team to watch men’s soccer, women’s soccer, field hockey and Ed would be down on the bench, he would be high-fiving the kids, interacting with them,” Finley recalled. “He knew them by name… He didn’t come to our games, he never introduced himself to our girls, didn’t participate with us.”
Aside from McLaughlin, Finley praises VCU for its commitment to diversity and for embracing him, his husband and their three children. At the end of the day, he just wants his job back: “You always want to be judged on your work,” says Finley, “not on who you love.”