I am writing this in response to David Rosman’s piece about coach Robin Pingeton’s press conference remarks that generated some controversy.
From my perspective, a basketball coach who professes academic integrity, social responsibility and competitive excellence is not only consistent with the athletics department’s values but the community’s as well. That is why when Robin Pingeton identified herself with religion and family, the words were surprising in that they were “loaded” with what has often been divisive in the world at large. Community credibility is often destroyed on subtle messages with unintended consequences. Words have to be chosen carefully.
Coach Pingeton will represent a diverse community of Buddhists, Muslims, atheists, Unitarians, among others as well as a variety of relationship statuses, including partnerships, roommates, married people, singles and persons with differing sexual orientations. I believe MU and Columbia were seeking to hire a coach for all of us.
Do lesbians and gays within our community have a right to question coach Pingeton’s beliefs? Of course. The subtext of many religion-associated statements of family values has been one of homophobia and denial of basic human and civil rights. Words mean everything in any attempt to forge support and sense of community. In any event, MU women’s basketball needs the support of everyone.
Many successful coaches in this nation are members of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Several coaches within the Big 12 are married. Most of them have had no need to self-identify as a Christian or as married. It simply isn’t relevant or necessary. In recruiting, it cuts both ways: to some the information might be essential to committing to MU; to others, off-putting in the least; frightening to many. Recruits will know, before the community at large does, whether she is inclusive and respectful to all.
My hope is that coach Pingeton finds a way to make it clear in her interactions with the media that she is a coach of all the people, period. After all, words and actions mean everything.
As a long-time fan of women’s basketball at MU, I am looking forward to the enthusiastic support of the team and coach Pingeton by the athletics department. Good luck to both.