January 2, 2013 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
VCU upholds firing of gay coach
James Finley, VCU, ENDA, Employment Non-Discrimination Act, gay news, Washington Blade, Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU women’s volleyball coach James Finley says he was fired because he’s gay. (Photo courtesy of Finley)

An investigation by Virginia Commonwealth University’s diversity office has determined that a decision in November to fire the gay coach of the women’s volleyball team was made “in compliance” with VCU’s employment policies, according to a statement by VCU President Michael Rao.

Coach James Finely, 52, who led his team to a 25-6 winning record in 2012, has accused the school’s recently appointed athletics director of declining to renew his contract because of Finely’s sexual orientation.

“The Office of Institutional Equity’s exhaustive investigation confirmed that the employment decision was made in accordance with VCU policies and not as the result of any discriminatory action by our athletic director,” Rao said in his statement.

“The investigation included fact-finding interviews with 16 individuals and a review of applicable personnel records,” the university said in the statement. “The investigation concluded that allegations of discrimination based on sexual orientation were unsubstantiated.”

It added, “The details of the report cannot be released publicly by VCU without the consent of the complainant because they include confidential personnel information.”

Athletic director Ed McLaughlin has said his reason for not renewing Finley’s contract was based on plans to take the volleyball program in a “different direction” and had nothing to do with the coach’s sexual orientation.

But Finley has said volleyball players on the team told him McLaughlin told them the university wants a coach who would “represent the university well,” a comment Finley interprets to mean a gay coach cannot represent the school favorably.

In his own statement responding to VCU’s decision to uphold his firing, Finley said he would review his options for challenging the university’s action with legal counsel.

“I’m obviously disappointed in the outcome of VCU’s initial investigation into my discrimination complaint,” he said. “I am dismayed by the poor quality of the investigative procedures followed and by numerous factual inaccuracies included in the report that appear to provide the basis for the conclusion reached,” he said.

Finley said he was especially troubled that procedures followed by the Office of Institutional Equity “provided me with no opportunity to respond to any of the erroneous information brought forward in the investigation to justify the action taken.”

Finley, who issued his statement through the LGBT advocacy group Get Equal, didn’t immediately say whether he would release the investigative report that VCU says was confidential.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

1 Comment
  • Karen Livingston

    I am so sorry for this coach. Truly. It is extremely disheartening to hear that these decisions are still being made, and I totally believe him when he says that he is convinced it was based on his being gay. That is just wrong. A person should ONLY be judged by their character. This man sounds like a hard working, energetic and uplifting individual. God Bless.

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