April 13, 2007

Former UNC player Melissa Jennings accuses Anson Dorrance, the nation's most decorated women's soccer coach, of maintaining a hostile environment filled with sexual harassment: 9 year old lawsuit is alive and kicking with the backup goalkeeper believing the abuse prevented her from reaping the benefits of college sports, a violation of Title IX.

posted by Texan_lost_in_NY to soccer at 02:09 PM - 36 comments

Sexual banter between a coach and his players sounds pretty terrible to me. It's not like among peers where someone can ask them to stop. You tell your coach that you don't like his behavior, you could lose playing time or your scholarship. I hope UNC has at least placed limits on acceptable conduct for him.

posted by bperk at 02:52 PM on April 13, 2007

Yeah I totally agree that the Coach had no right to talk about sex with these girls. The only true question is whether or not the lawsuit is about the sexual harassment or the fact that the girl got cut. I don't think she can blame a sex talk on the fact that she couldn't hack it as a goalie in D-1 soccer. Not many people can.

posted by yay-yo at 03:18 PM on April 13, 2007

It kind of makes me wonder exactly what the nature of the "banter" was. Without a few examples, it's tough to condemn or defend the coach. Obviously, if he was asking his players to directly divulge the intimacies of their sex lives, he was way the hell out of line. On the other hand, if it really was "banter" in the true sense of the word, that implies it was a light hearted exchange on a friendly level. I wonder if this is a case of great insensitivity, hypersensitivity, or a bit of both.

posted by tahoemoj at 04:02 PM on April 13, 2007

I would sure be careful to falsely convict anyone outside a courtroom in light of the Duke scandal. You might have to eat your words when the true facts come out. One thing is for sure, I sure wouldn't want DA Mike Nifong handling a case against me.

posted by terribleteddy at 04:34 PM on April 13, 2007

Unless I'm very much mistaken, DAs don't handle Title IX suits.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 04:59 PM on April 13, 2007

This is a situation that has been going on for some time now. When the charges were first filed, Mia Hamm, Christine Lily, and other notable UNC alum all spoke in favor of Dorance and said the allegations were untrue. In addition, I have attended several clinics held by Dorance and spoken with him one-on-one. I did not get the impression that he was some sort of letch. If any of you were to read his book, you can tell that an intense atmosphere of compition is always in place. Maybe the accusors did not flourish in this and percieved it as a hostile environ. I have coached women's teams for many years. I can say from my own personal experience that, once the girls feel comfortable around you, they speak to you (and around you) about very personal things. In other words, they treat you like "one of the girls". I can also say that their 'locker room mentality' is much more bawdy than the men's teams I've coached.

posted by FonGu at 06:01 PM on April 13, 2007

ahhhh all the real sports topics out there and they have to put this crap on here and take up valuable space

posted by coachhannon at 09:07 PM on April 13, 2007

coachhannon, you might want to read the guidelines. Just because a sport does not interest you, or, an issue regarding a particular sport doesn't interest you doesn't mean it doesn't interest others. At sportsfilter we don't rip other people because they have an interest in something we don't. My suggestion would be ignore the thread, and move along to something you do care about.

posted by tommybiden at 10:22 PM on April 13, 2007

For what it is worth, the recent ruling is here; it contains much discussion of the 'banter'. Sounds like lots of discussion of the player's sex lives- penis sizes of boyfriends, how much people slept around, some discussion of him fantasizing about being 'a fly on a wall' when a player lost her virginity, etc. I'll say that none of it sounds particularly worse than what college students say to each other all the time, and I'm sure, FonGu, that Dorrance is not a 'letch', at least no worse than most typical horny college students. But regardless of whether or not he is a letch, or whether or not it is just part of typical locker-room banter, most of it just sounds icky coming from a coach. I can't imagine it was a fun situation for her to be in, and it demonstrates really, really poor judgment on his part. Legally actionable? After reading through all of it, I'd guess probably not. But definitely very poor judgment and taste on his part.

posted by tieguy at 10:26 PM on April 13, 2007

It's hard to imagine Carolina winning 19 championships in 27 years if Dorrance was "maintaining a hostile environment". Players don't generally perform at their best, let alone win titles, if they're upset all the time. Every coach has his or her style and there will always be some players who can't handle it. What about the coaches who supposedly insult their players' dignity by calling them weak, soft, crybaby, loser, etc? Is this not a "hostile environment" too? Or is it just part of the coach's strategy for motivating players? Definitely the latter--players who can't handle this stuff quietly leave the team, and are generally never heard from again. Pat Summitt can be pretty mean to her players at times, but any player who sued her for creating a hostile environment would be laughed all the way to Pluto. How come all sorts of bullying and belittling of players by coaches is tolerated and even expected, while the moment sex enters the discussion, there is automatically a hostile environment? It's a metaphor for American values: violence--yeah, bring it on!!; sex--Oh my God, the horror!!

posted by TerpFan at 12:20 AM on April 14, 2007

TerpFan, there's a specific context for "hostile environment" that gives it a specific meaning. If you have a job in the United States these days, you've probably been through sexual harassment awareness training, and if you didn't nap through it, you will have received a very thorough explanation of what terms like "hostile environment" mean. Providing training of this sort is one of the most important steps a company can take to insulate itself from lawsuits, so it's extremely common practice, and therefore I'm surprised at your apparent misunderstanding of the term "hostile environment". I'm inclined to agree with tieguy: it's creepy behavior from a coach. If the facts of who said what are not in dispute, I'm baffled at Dorrance's lack of judgment. When you have a superior-subordinate relationship, there are lines that you're better off not crossing, because even if 99% of subordinates don't mind, it's the 1% who do that you need to respect. And, before anyone starts being an apologist for the "but why should the 1% decide, why doesn't the 99% matter more" line of thinking: that reasoning might carry the day if you can show that the conduct in question is somehow functional, that it aids the organization in its objectives. Crude sexual banter of this kind is at best irrelevant to the success or failure of a soccer team; it doesn't help, and it certainly has the potential to harm. So why go there?

posted by lil_brown_bat at 06:11 AM on April 14, 2007

TerpFan and Tieguy, this isn't about what kind of person Dorrance is - whether or not he's a "letch", whatever that means. It's about what he does, not what he is. The things he said, as related in the ruling, are totally out of line for anyone outside of a personal relationship and the thing is that a coach or an employer or can't and shouldn't have the right to make disparaging and intrusive sexual remarks (e.g. Who is your fuck of the minute?) to anyone over whom they have the authority to make decisions affecting their benefits or career. This isn't banter and it isn't merely "creepy": it's a way for an older man to force his way into the sex life of young women (some only 17) and he knows he can get away with it becuase they can't tell him to "fuck off" becuase he might take it out on their scholarship or their playing time or their letters of recommendation. Imagine a math professor talking like that to his students. No one reading this thread would think that's acceptable. Well, athletes don't give up their dignity just because they do physical activity for a living.

posted by hexagram at 07:34 AM on April 14, 2007

The things he said ... That should be "the things he allegedly said." It has not yet been decided if he actually said all the things Jennings accused him of. A trial has not been held yet. The trial court said even if he did everything he was accused of, he wouldn't be liable, so no trial is necessary. On appeal, a panel of the appeals court agreed affirmed that. Then a bigger panel of the appeals court overturned it. NOW there will be a trial to determine if he actually did anything he was accused of. there's a specific context for "hostile environment" that gives it a specific meaning. No there's not. The meaning is not specific. No one actually knows when a workplace crosses the line into a "hostile environment." If you think there is a specific meaning, you can read the 21 pages holding that something is a hostile environment, the 35 page concurrence that concluded there may have been a hostile environment but Jennings still couldn't win her lawsuit, and then the first appellate opinion (39 pages plus a 17 page dissent) where they "conclude that no reasonable jury could find that Dorrance’s remarks during Jennings’ two-year tenure on the team were sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a sexually hostile educational environment." All of these diverging opinions are written by people who not only know what a hostile environment is, they are people who define the term.

posted by Aardhart at 12:49 PM on April 14, 2007

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz boring zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz so did he touch her ass?

posted by coachhannon at 01:22 PM on April 14, 2007

Where I work, each of us is required to take an annual ethics training course. Part of it deals with sexual harrassment in the workplace. If Anson Dorrance had been employed by my employer, he would now be unemployed. His conduct, a continued pattern of sexual innuendo, is in any setting, inexcusable. When such conduct comes from one in a position of power and is directed toward a subordinate, it is abusive. Having said that, I believe that Judge Niemeyer raises some important points in his dissenting opinion. (Believe me, 56 pages is no fun to wade through, but it is certainly worth reading. Thanks for the link, tieguy.) I don't agree with him that the sexual harrassment must be directed at the individual. The atmosphere should be enough to be considered as harassment. The thing that I do agree with is that Title IX deals only with the opportunity to have equal access (italics mine) to the benefits of college athletics. By the evidence presented, MS Jennings performance was below the standards set for members of the UNC varsity soccer team. In addition, at the time of her dismissal from the team, she was on the edge of being academically ineligible. Thus, it appears to me that MS Jennings had her opportunity but was unable to fully grasp it. It is interesting that the court opinions make no mention of MS Jennings being allowed to transfer to another school, but was still granted a UNC degree upon graduation. This appears that UNC recognized that there was a problem here, and tried to offer some relief. All-in-all, I believe that Coach Dorrance has demonstrated true ignorance, but he has somehow succeeded in spite of himself. Unless MS Jennings's claims were greatly exaggerated (which they do not appear to be), there must be some very tough-minded ladies playing soccer at UNC. coachhannon, let me beat l_b_b to the punch. Please read the guidelines, and if you do not have anything constructive to offer to a discussion, read it and move on.

posted by Howard_T at 01:56 PM on April 14, 2007

No there's not. The meaning is not specific. No one actually knows when a workplace crosses the line into a "hostile environment." Either you didn't read what TerpFan wrote -- the statement that I was responding to -- or my point went whizzing right by you. TerpFan used the term "hostile environment" in the general sense, i.e., what the words mean in the English language, not what they mean in the context of workplace harassment, where the definition is much narrower. Using the phrase as it is used in the legal context of workplace harassment to refer to Pat Summit making her players run lotsa laps is ridiculous. Make sense now?

posted by lil_brown_bat at 02:16 PM on April 14, 2007

I don't think there is a place for 'sexual banter' in any school locker room regardless of the team's and coach's gender.....

posted by shudacudawuda at 07:59 PM on April 14, 2007

hexagram:: letch Aardhart: hostile environment

posted by FonGu at 06:04 AM on April 15, 2007

I have had personal dealings with Anson Dorrence. He is a brilliant womens coach and an even better recruiter. I was a staff member at the UNC Womens Camp for Youth Girls teams. He is one of the most analytical minds in the game. He has perhaps the greatest psychological mind for the difference between men and women and their psyches that I have ever known of a coach. I have learned a lot from him. That being said, as far as a hostile environment, he knew the line not to cross and apparantly he did. I was invited to a BBQ at his house and he was extremely hospitable and a great mind to pick. He did, however, make a comment or two about how "hot" some of his players were when it was just men in the room. It goes on all the time and is natural. It can be innocent enough. Yet when the players are exposed to the comments and questions it IS sexual harassment and creates a hostile environment. For all of the knowledge he posesses on how to treat men and women within the confines of the field, he seems to have allowed his hormones and position of power to do some really stupid things. Situations that I am sure DID create a hostile environment for some players and I wonder how his wife is reacting to it all. As a HS and College soccer coach I was required to attend sexual harassment type seminars and what was acceptable behovior with other coaches/teachers/players/students. I am sure Anson attended one of those in his many years. He just figured it doesn't apply to him and his winning record. Some background info on UNC coaching that may prove useful: The former GK coach for Anson married an ex-goalkeeper player (Similar in age and may be no big deal). An assistant coach of Dorrence married one of his ex-players that he started dating while she was still a student. Take it for what its worth.

posted by urall cloolis at 09:10 PM on April 15, 2007

This story appears to have credibility since the coach even admitted repulsive behavior and it is also free of a racist agenda that influenced the Duke and Imus incidents.

posted by longgreenline at 09:14 PM on April 15, 2007

Political correctness sucks...Come on people act like adult men and women here. I am sure Dorrence did not act out any type of sexual harassment towards his players..Everyone is reading way to much into this incident..Whether or not this appears credibilty or not is something between the coach and players to settle. If any coach, man or woman, can honestly say that that players or coach hasn't thought someone is hot or very good looking or is thinking of them as something other than a player is, sorry to say, not be truthful to themselves. It for you that don't know is called HUMAN BEHAVIOR plain and simple. Men are attracted to women and woman are attracted to men and that is how the world goes around....Everyone is too too sensitive about all this racist, sexual hasassment, bias behavior. All of us need to stop always looking for the worst in people and go back to the enjoying the games and teamwork aspect of sports. We all understand that it will never go away in some form or another but it must stop being the focus every time you turn around.

posted by ucla512 at 11:47 AM on April 17, 2007

Another genius stops by... posted by ucla512 at 11:47 AM CDT on April 17: I am sure Dorrence did not act out any type of sexual harassment towards his players.. Since you're so definitive about your sure-ness, we all know for a fact you were there to witness the interaction. If any coach, man or woman, can honestly say that that players or coach hasn't thought someone is hot or very good looking or is thinking of them as something other than a player is, sorry to say, not be truthful to themselves. Don't put your scumbagness on the rest of us. There are people in this world who know the difference between right and wrong and just because your moral, ethical and sexual compasses are spinning out of control, don't think for a second the rest of the world follows your lead. Can we ban somone for admitting that someone is hot or very good looking or is thinking of them as something other than a player is...Men are attracted to women and woman are attracted to men and that is how the world goes around. Sounds like child molestation is A-OK with our UCLA friend. I'm sure John Wooden would be proud.

posted by Texan_lost_in_NY at 12:37 PM on April 17, 2007

Whoa. That's not necessarily what he's saying, Texan. He's just saying that it's hard to not be sexual beings in thought - which is very separate from deed. Indicating that a coach may be sexually attracted to his players is not tantamount to assaulting them. Unless you're a Baptist, I guess. You jumping to such accusations is a little pre-emptive, no? Child molestation? You sound like John Lithgow in Footloose... In my head. Because I'm not watching Footloose right now. Swear to god. everybody cut, everybody cut... everybody cut, everybody cut.....

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 01:10 PM on April 17, 2007


posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 01:11 PM on April 17, 2007


posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 01:11 PM on April 17, 2007

........ FOOTLOOSE!! FOOTLOOSE!! Kick off yer Sunday shoos!

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 01:12 PM on April 17, 2007

Whoa, Milo

posted by bperk at 01:42 PM on April 17, 2007

If any coach, man or woman, can honestly say that that players or coach hasn't thought someone is hot... I coach 10 to 12 year old girls, Weedy. There is nothing in the quoted comment that excludes children. It says "players", and my players are kids. It's possible I'm being literal but if someone has enough interest in this issue to type a comment, they better damn well clarify the implication.

posted by Texan_lost_in_NY at 01:43 PM on April 17, 2007

I can see your reasoning texan but I don't believe ucla is advocating child molestation. I think he is referring to an instance where both parties are adults. I may be wrong however.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 05:22 PM on April 17, 2007

Political correctness sucks...Come on people act like adult men and women here. Yeah, let's get back to the good ol' days when men could make sexual jokes in front of young women, and those broads couldn't do jack shit about it! Why the hell shouldn't a coach be able to talk about sex with his female team members, most of whom are at least twenty years his junior? And all these teachers having sex with students? Hell, we did it in the old days, so why should we have to stop now? Welcome to the 21st century. It's not political correctness, it actually goes back to something a little older than that. Common decency, and common sense. These statements are in no way a condemnation of Anson Dorrance, Melissa Jennings, or anybody else, with the exception of ucla512.

posted by The_Black_Hand at 06:13 PM on April 17, 2007

Political correctness sucks...Come on people act like adult men and women here. 100% agree! People these days are such wusses and soft-hearted panzies these days it makes me sick! If some1 trips sum1 its all over the Sports Center and SI and it drives me crazy! I want to hear sports not sum idiot cryin over a booboo!

posted by TelamarketersBeware at 09:29 AM on April 18, 2007

why hello TelemarketersBeware! Welcome to Sportsfilter. We're delighted to have you. Allow me a moment to show you to our Guidelines where you'll find important new user information about the rules of the road here at SpoFi.

posted by jerseygirl at 10:06 AM on April 18, 2007

i read the guidelines. did i violate sumthing? All i'm tryin to say is that im tired of things like this happening and tired of it takin over SC and SI. Just look back at the Kobe case. over 1 year of listening to them getting nowere and takin up the highlights.

posted by TelamarketersBeware at 10:37 AM on April 19, 2007

Well i apologize if i aggravated anyone by my writing. I am used to online game chat and nobody cares what you say on that. I will be sure to watch what im typing.

posted by TelamarketersBeware at 08:38 AM on April 20, 2007

Sorry TB but that's the way things are around here. Don't put your scumbagness on the rest of us...Can we ban somone for admitting that someone is hot or very good looking...Sounds like child molestation is A-OK with our UCLA friend. You're took it to the extreme Texan. After the part where ucla said, "Come on people act like adult men and women here", I figured he was talking about adults. Way to blow things out of proportion~

posted by BornIcon at 09:33 AM on April 20, 2007

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