Faith, Family, and Basketball

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Earlier this month the University of Missouri announced that it had hired Illinois State University’s Robin Pingeton to be the school’s women’s basketball coach. At the press conference announcing her appointment Pingeton said:

I’m very blessed to have my staff here. This is something very unique for Division I Women’s basketball. A staff where the entire staff that is married with kids. Family is important to us. And we live it every day. My values are very important to me. I’m a Christian that happens to be a coach.

This seems like a slightly, well, odd thing to say. It seemed peculiar to Inside Higher Ed’s Jennifer Epstein, too, who wrote that wrote that,

[I]n women’s athletics… there’s often an undercurrent of homophobia and a sense that female players and coaches need to “prove” they’re straight, Pingeton’s comments, along with what she said a few minutes later, seemed to be sending a message about more than just her faith.

Given that history, Pat Griffin, a longtime advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in athletics, also had a strong reaction to Pingeton’s comments. “When the coach leads with a description of herself as a Christian and boasts at her first press conference about how straight her assistant coaches are,” the University of Massachusetts Amherst professor emerita wrote on her blog, “you have to wonder about what kind of team climate she will promote for student-athletes who are not Christian or who are not heterosexual.”

But this may just be needless worry. Pingeton, like 77 percent of people in Missouri, is a Christian; she can go ahead and let everyone know if she wants. The Epstein article quotes a former basketball player of Pingeton’s, who now lives openly with another woman. According to the former student, Pingeton is tolerant and accepting and “develops a family atmosphere with her players and teams.”

Pingeton’s open support of family may just mean she aims to create a warm and nurturing relationship with her team. Family values doesn’t necessarily mean “family values.”[Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer