Ron Brown is a football coach who has served on the University of Nebraska’s staff for a total of 22 years. As the running running backs coach for the Huskers, he helped lead Nebraska to the 15th ranked rushing offense in the country and was nominated for the Broyles Award which is given to the nation’s top assistant coach.
Brown, who is African American and graduated from Brown University, is a Christian and the head of a ministry called Freed Men.
Like many assistant coaches, Brown was known more for his coaching within the coaching community rather than outside of it. That was until the Penn State Sex Scandal. The scandal involved a former assistant coach on the football team and young boy and led to the firing of Penn State’s president and long time football coach, Joe Paterno. The first game after the scandal broke and the firings, it was the University of Nebraska that headed up to State College, Pennsylvania to play Penn State.
Knowing the school, the students and the players were hurting, Brown gathered the players for a pre-game prayer. This was not unusual for Brown as he always led the pre-game prayer. Yet this day was unique, and Brown’s prayer was captured on video:
We take note of Brown’s history to show the type of man he is. It is undeniable that Brown is a man of passion, commitment and faith. If you are a parent, it would be hard to think of a person you would want your son to emulate more than Brown.
The notion that Brown is successful, well thought of, respected, intelligent and passionate makes one wonder why there are calls for Brown to be fired.
Last month, Brown attended an Omaha City Council meeting to speak out against a against an anti-discrimination ordinance that extended protections to gay and transgender people.
In Brown’s three-minute appearance, he challenged ordinance sponsor Ben Gray and other members to remember that the Bible does not condone homosexuality. He told council members they would be held to “great accountability for the decision you are making.”
“The question I have for you all is, like Pontius Pilate, what are you going to do with Jesus?” Brown asked. “Ultimately, if you don’t have a relationship with him, and you don’t really have a Bible-believing mentality, really, anything goes… At the end of the day it matters what God thinks most.”
The reaction to Brown’s comments was swift.
Barbara Baier, a member of the Lincoln Board of Education, wrote to university administrators to request Brown’s firing in the wake of his testimony. She noted the university-wide policy not to discriminate based on, among other things, sexual orientation.
Baier is right as far as she goes. The University of Nebraska does have a policy that includes sexual orientation. The actual policy goes much further:
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is a public university committed to providing a quality education to a diverse student body. One aspect of this commitment is to foster a climate of inclusion and mutual support that will enhance our ability to achieve our overall goals of recruiting and retaining good faculty and staff while allowing all of us to focus our energies and talents on our important missions of education, research and service. To this end, it is the policy of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln not to discriminate based upon age, race, ethnicity, color, national origin, gender, sex, pregnancy, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, veteran’s status, marital status, religion or political affiliation. This policy is applicable to all University administered programs including educational programs, financial aid, admission policies and employment policies. (emphasis in original)
Baier wants Brown fired not because he actually discriminates. In fact, no one has claimed he has treated people differently at all. No, she wants him fired based on his beliefs – his religious beliefs. Those beliefs are protected by the very same non-discrimination policy. Yet even though no one can claim or show Brown has discriminated against anyone, Baier believes he should be fired on the basis of his religious beliefs.
And Baier is not the only one.
Cyd Zeigler of the Huffington Post says Brown should be fired as well. While he says the university’s discrimination policy protects Brown’s religious beliefs, Brown should still be fired:
For over 20 years University of Nebraska assistant football coach Ron Brown has used his position in the university to preach his discriminatory, anti-gay brand of Christianity. His latest crusade to fight for discrimination against the LGBT community finally warrants his termination from the school’s football program.
In other words, because Brown spoke out about a law that would grant protection to some groups over others, and because Brown feels homosexuality is a sin, he should be fired.
If you are detecting a pattern of intolerance while demanding everyone else be “tolerant,” you would be dead spot on.
Pat Tetrault runs the LGBTQA resource center at the University of Nebraska. While speaking for herself and not for the university, she said it’s impossible to believe Brown’s views on anti-gay discrimination don’t affect his job with student athletes:
“When you have a nondiscrimination policy, and you make your views that a certain segment of the population should be singled out for discrimination, it really is hard to not believe it doesn’t impact the students and the staff who may not believe the same way he does.”
The last line of Tetrault’s statement shows the hypocrisy. She thinks that Brown’s differences in belief should be punished, but yet feels her differences in beliefs with Brown have no impact. Once again, there is a intolerance for Brown and his beliefs.
How deep is the intolerance?
Brown was to be interviewed for the head coaching position at Stanford University in 1999. When the University discovered Brown’s views on homosexuality, they retracted the offer to interview him.
We cannot imagine the outcry if a gay person was denied an interview on the basis of their beliefs, but Brown is denied an interview on the basis of his beliefs.
A Stanford athletic department official said, “[His religion] was definitely something that had to be considered. We’re a very diverse community with a diverse alumni.”
Stanford was so proud of their “diverse alumni” they literally broke the law in not looking to hire Brown.
It is nothing more than intolerance.
We have to say that our “favorite” commentary on this comes from Adam Jacobi of the Bleacher Report who says Brown should resign and go to a school where there are people of similar beliefs:
So we have an employee of a public institution whose views he has strong religious opposition to, saying to be fired would be “an honor,” and there are dozens of similar private institutions out there that don’t share Nebraska’s commitment to equality. But Ron Brown hasn’t told Nebraska goodbye and set out for one of those schools yet?
Look, let’s not pretend that Nebraska isn’t one of the highest-profile college football programs in the nation. With the few private, religiously-affiliated programs that have equal or higher standing in the nation than the Cornhuskers, Brown can’t just go to them and say, “hire me.” That’s not how college football works. So a step down in program prestige would have to be in the offing if Brown wants to actually demonstrate how important his faith is to him.
But we’re talking about God’s judgment. Ron Brown said so himself.
And right now he’s taking paychecks from a school that defies his convictions. If he takes a significant pay cut to help coach at a school where his views are welcomed (and they’re out there), how is that not a better situation?
In fact, there’s this place called Liberty University, founded by famed Baptist pastor and televangelist Jerry Falwell 41 years ago. Its football program, the Flames, plays in the Big South Conference in the FCS, and the Flames just hired former Kansas coach Turner Gill. Gill and Ron Brown just so happened to coach with each other for over a decade at Nebraska under Tom Osborne.
Close your eyes for a moment and imagine the screaming if this were written about a minority – let’s say blacks – who wanted to attend a predominately white school. What would be the fate of anyone who said that if you don’t like the way the school treats you, or if you have different views as to how blacks should be viewed, you should go to an historically black school. How would that be received?
It doesn’t matter whether you agree or disagree with Brown. In that he has shown no discriminatory behavior toward anyone – even those whose lifestyles he disagrees with – there is no reason for people to be calling for his firing.
It amazes us that the most intolerant people in the world seem to be those who are intolerant of the views of other people. That is really the focus of the issue here. There are people who disagree with an educated, religious black man and want him to be banished and shut up as a message to others.
There may come a time when Brown may leave the University of Nebraska. However, as he says:
“To be fired for my faith would be a greater honor than to be fired because we didn’t win enough games,” Brown said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I haven’t lost any sleep over it. I realize at some point, we live in a politically correct enough culture where that very well could happen.”
Ain’t it the truth.