UPDATE: "As a gay Christian (that bleeds all things Big Red), and a long time season ticket holder that comes with a $1,000 dollar donation each year, I really felt betrayed by Coach Brown's comments," Omaha attorney John Carroll wrote to NU Athletic Director Tom Osborne.
"I can assure you that Ron's comments are reflective of his own views and do not represent those of the Athletic Department or the University," replied Osborne.
Also, read more about the March 6 City Council meeting and Ron Brown's comments.
Coming Tuesday: Follow live coverage of the City Council meeting.
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Ron Brown's public opposition to an Omaha effort to protect gay and transgender residents from discrimination drew an equally public rebuke from the top official at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on Thursday.
UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman criticized the Husker football assistant for failing to clarify that he was not speaking for the university when he testified before the Omaha City Council earlier this week.
“The Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska has made it clear that the university does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. And only the board can speak on university policy and practices,” Perlman said in a statement. “Several people have written me asking if (Brown's) remarks represent the position of the university. I want to be clear that they do not.”
In an interview with The World-Herald, Brown stressed that his comments at Tuesday's hearing represented his personal beliefs.
“However, in light of the context, I didn't think it was necessary and I didn't think it should be assumed that I was representing the university,” Brown said.
Brown also questioned whether he would have been criticized if he had testified in support of the anti-discrimination proposal.
“Should every employee from the University of Nebraska have to say that they're not representing the university?” Brown asked. “Would I have been OK if I was on the other side of the coin, in terms of if I was in favor of the proposal?”
This is not the first time Brown's public stances on his religious beliefs have taken center stage.
He serves as a co-director of Mission Nebraska, a Christian-centered nonprofit.
He gained national attention in November when he led an on-field team prayer prior to an emotional football game at Penn State, in the wake of child molestation allegations against a former assistant coach there.
In 2010, the Nebraska director of the American Civil Liberties Union warned school districts about Brown's use of religious themes during motivational speeches to students.
Tuesday, Brown was one of more than 40 opponents who lined up to testify before the City Council during a marathon public hearing.
The council heard hours of testimony on Councilman Ben Gray's proposal to add lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents to the city's list of classes protected from discrimination in employment and public accommodations.
Speakers were asked to state their name and address for the record. Brown listed his address as “One Memorial Stadium” and said the Bible condemns homosexuality as sin.
“The question I have for you, like Pontius Pilate, is: ‘What are you going to do with Jesus?' ”
Brown said during his remarks. “For those of you on this council who have a relationship with Christ, and only you know if you do, you will be held to great accountability for the decision you make.”
University of Nebraska Medical Center researchers testified as proponents during the hearing, but made clear their views did not represent the University of Nebraska.
Said Perlman: “Unfortunately in this instance coach Brown did not make it clear in his comments that he was asserting his personal viewpoint and not representing the university.”
Perlman declined to elaborate on his statement.
Among those upset by Brown's remarks was John Carroll, a gay Omaha attorney who holds Nebraska football season tickets.
He criticized Brown's comments in an email addressed to NU Athletic Director Tom Osborne and head football coach Bo Pelini.
“With all that young gay kids are facing today, having Coach Brown stand up in a public forum and call them sinners, made me sick to my stomach,” Carroll wrote. “If Mr. Brown insists on exercising his First Amendment rights all the while spewing anti-gay rhetoric and threats of eternal damnation, please have him use his own address in the future.”
Osborne, in a reply, said Brown should not have listed his address as One Memorial Stadium and said he had addressed the matter with Brown.
“I can assure you that Ron's comments are reflective of his own views and do not represent those of the Athletic Department or the university,” Osborne wrote.
Brown later said he used the stadium's address to ensure that correspondence on the issue reached him there, as opposed to at his personal residence.
“I can see why that could possibly be confusing for people,” he said. “I was naive to the process.”
Brown said his testimony was motivated by “a much larger issue” than perceived discrimination against gay and transgender persons. He echoed other opponents who argued that amending the local ordinance would force those morally opposed to homosexual activity to accept behavior that contradicts their religious beliefs.
“We don't want to be put in a position where we are going to be penalized for living out what is near and dear to us as people of God,” Brown said. “There are certain things that we cannot embrace. We can respect it, we can honor it, we can protect it to the best of our ability, but we don't have to embrace it.”
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ask questions and follow along with live coverage of Tuesday's Omaha City Council meeting, where the council is expected to vote on the ordinance.
From: John F Carroll
Sent: Wednesday, March 07, 2012 1:08 PM
Subject: Coach Ron Brown
Coach Osborne and Coach Pelini:
My name is John F. Carroll. I am a season ticket holder of four seats in the North End Zone. Yesterday, I witnessed a depressing moment. Coach Brown drove to Omaha, from Lincoln where he lives, to speak out against the City of Omaha's proposed ordinance protecting gays and gender identity.
He started his statement with, “Hi, my name is Ron Brown. I live in One Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, NE. That's not really my home but it is where I spend most of my time.”
As a gay Christian (that bleeds all things Big Red), and a long time season ticket holder that comes with a $1,000 dollar donation each year, I really felt betrayed by Coach Brown's comments. I am no stranger to this type of rhetoric. I was shocked to hear Coach Brown tie Memorial Stadium to his anti-gay statements.
I am a licensed registered nurse and an attorney. I say grace with every meal. I pray daily for those in need. I have dealt with homophobia since I was kid. I was bullied throughout school. In my twenties, I was fired from a job and kicked out of an apartment because I was gay. In my thirties, I was the victim of a hate crime and I was outed on the television show Survivor. Now in my 40s, I still hear the anti-gay rhetoric throughout my beloved state.
I am all for free speech. There are limits when a representative like Coach Brown who is associated with the University exercises his first amendment rights and states that his address is Memorial Stadium. I get that it was an attempt at humor; I can assure you that many gay and straight husker fans did not find it funny.
As you are aware, the University is comprised of all types of various colors, genders, ages, religions, and yes, people of different sexual orientations and gender identities. While Coach Brown's fight for his civil rights, is waning, the rights of gays and lesbians are far from secure. To hear Coach Brown, a representative of the University of Nebraska, use God and Jesus to argue against providing gays and lesbians protection from people that would harm them in the work place is beyond the pale. It makes me wonder what would happen if one of the football players came out. Would he bench them? Would he recommend kicking them off the team? I know former players that are gay. Has the University ever once asked them what it was like hiding in plain sight?
With all that young gay kids are facing today, having Coach Brown stand up in a public forum and call them sinners, made me sick to my stomach. I have not been this angry about this issue in a very long time. I know there are plenty of people in the athletic department that embrace diversity and tolerance, the kind that includes gays, but that doesn't mitigate the affect that Coach Brown's comments could have on the program.
Mr. Brown's veiled threat was particularly galling, "The question I have for you, like Pontius Pilate, is: 'What are you going to do with Jesus?' For those of you on this council who have a relationship with Christ, and only you know if you do, you will be held to great accountability for the decision you make."
Coach Brown is a religious bully and has a history of using the University as his pulpit all the while disguising it as “motivational speaking.” No one can deny the impact that Coach Brown has had on young men from tough backgrounds. However, that cannot come at the expense of other kids, namely gay and transgendered kids.
The hypocrisy is that if Coach Brown worked in Omaha today, he could never be fired from his job on the basis of his race, gender or religious affiliation. He could be if he was gay or his boss found out he used to be a woman.
If Mr. Brown insists on exercising his first amendment rights all the while spewing anti-gay rhetoric and threats of eternal damnation, please have him use his own address in the future. We should never hear in a public forum the words Memorial Stadium and sinner in the same speech.
Thank you for your time.
GO BIG RED!
John F. Carroll
From: Anne Hackbart
Sent: Thursday, March 08, 2012 12:21 PM
To: John F Carroll
Subject: RE: Coach Ron Brown
I'm sorry that you've been offended by Ron Brown's comments. I can assure you that Ron's comments are reflective of his own views and do not represent those of the Athletic Department or the University.
His listing his address as One Memorial Stadium was not in keeping with what we would expect and I have addressed this with him.
Thank you for taking time to write.
Tom Osborne | Athletic Director
University of Nebraska Athletics
One Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, NE 68588-0120
From: John F Carroll
Date: March 8, 2012 12:37:33 PM CST
Subject: FW: Coach Ron Brown
Here is my response:
I appreciate the quick response. I know that it is a tough issue for everyone. Until the Good Lord comes down and tells us what the real deal is, none of us really know. All I can tell you is that I have known I was gay since grade school. The fact that I kicked Barbie out of the dream house and moved GI Joe in with Ken gave my parents a big clue.
Wishing you nothing but the best.
John F. Carroll