Lisa Howe is the coach of Belmont University women’s soccer team in Nashville. Or at least she was, until she “resigned” last night after six seasons in an announcement that comes via an athletics department statement. Cue the controversy: Was she pushed out because she’s a lesbian and having a baby?
The Tennessean reports Athletics Director Mike Strickland says in a statement Howe decided to resign, but didn’t elaborate further. The only comment from Howe about her exit is this line: “I am at a point in my life where I am satisfied to move on.”
But “several members of the soccer team” insist Howe was pushed to resign after revealing she and her partner were having a baby. Among them is senior Erica Carter, who says Howe told her the department gave her the choice to resign or be terminated. It’s the only time Howe has ever really spoken about her personal life, says Carter, and came only after Howe repeatedly requested permission from Belmont officials to speak to the team about the pregnancy and thus reveal she’s a lesbian. [Ed: I’m sorry, but a coach needs permission to mention she’s having a baby?] Carter’s roommate Ashley Hudak confirms the account: “She said she needed to resign or she was going to be fired because of the choices she had made with her life. She said she had tried to clear telling us she was having a baby through the athletic department and they weren’t allowing her to.” Sari Lin, the team captain and a junior, says athletic director Strickland told her Howe was forced to resign for violating Belmont’s “shut up about your sexuality” rules. According to Lin, Strickland said “we have the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy and when she told us about the pregnancy, it violated that. She was telling us what her sexual preference is. He said you can hide your sexuality, but you can’t hide a baby. He pretty much told me that once the baby was born she was going to get fired anyway, so it’s better to do it sooner than later.”
Now before your jaw hits the ground, remember this is the same “Christian values” Belmont University that’s repeatedly refused to let students form an official LGBT student group because it would be “divisive and problematic.” Which might explain why Belmont President Robert Fisher is dodging the issue, refusing the comment because it’s a matter for the athletics department. Uh, no.
And while Tennessee has no state law barring discrimination based on sexual orientation, I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to fire a woman because she’s having a baby. Which is what the school appears to have been intent on doing anyhow.