FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | January 27, 2004
Policy Changes and Training Program Implemented
(Gainesville, FL, January 27, 2004) — The University of Florida and Andrea Zimbardi, a former catcher for the University's varsity women's softball team who was released from the team shortly after alleging sexual orientation discrimination, have reached an agreement that includes policy changes and a model training program to educate about harassment and discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students and athletes. Zimbardi was represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, a legal advocacy organization with a special project focused on providing legal assistance to athletes who face discrimination because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation.
As part of the agreement, UF will provide training to combat homophobia in sports to its entire athletic department, including athletic directors, coaches and staff. The University will also encourage team captains to attend. NCLR's Sports Project Coordinator Helen Carroll will coordinate the training which includes presentations from Don McPherson, former professional football player and Executive Director of the Sports Leadership Institute at Adelphi University, and Dr. Pat Griffin, a University of Massachusetts professor of Social Justice Education and leading national expert in the field of homophobia/heterosexism in sport.
"I am thrilled that we have reached an agreement that will enable us to put this all behind us," said Zimbardi. "My goal from the very beginning has been to help ensure that other gay and lesbian athletes at UF feel welcome, accepted and judged solely on their talent. I love UF and am more proud than ever to be a Gator."
"I am really impressed with how the University has addressed this situation," said NCLR staff attorney, Karen Doering. "UF has demonstrated its commitment to ensuring that all student athletes are treated fairly. Its new policies and training program are a model for other universities on how to effectively address allegations of homophobia and help prevent such incidents from occurring."
Pat Griffin, who helped conduct the first phase of the training yesterday morning commented, "I was impressed by how willing the coaches were to engage and really talk about these difficult issues - this was clearly a group of coaches who cared about their athletes and were interested in making athletics accessible for everyone."
In addition to training, UF will include a sexual orientation component in its annual non-discrimination staff training; amend its non-discrimination materials to include sexual orientation; create and publish an alternative reporting mechanism through which student athletes may report alleged violations of University non-discrimination rules; develop and provide to coaches and athletic personnel guidelines regarding prayer during practices, competitions or other athletic events; submit an application to the NCAA for restoration of Zimbardi's final year of eligibility; and pay for Zimbardi's Master's degree studies at the University.
"This agreement is a real win/win scenario," said NCLR's Sports Project Coordinator Helen Carroll. "I believe this top rated athletic program will be even better as a result of this agreement." On April 24, 2004, former Minnesota Vikings lineman Esera Tuaolo will present Zimbardi with a Justice Award at NCLR's 27th Annual Gala in San Francisco. For more information about the award or event, see www.nclrights.org.
This is the third student discrimination case that NCLR has settled in the past three months. For more information about the other cases - Flores v. Morgan Hill School District and Massey v. Banning Unified School District, see www.nclrights.org.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.