chapter  10
20 Pages

An Investigation of Ethnicity as a Variable Related to US Male College Athletes Sexual-Orientation Behaviours and Attitudes

WithRichard M. Southall, Eric D. Anderson, Mark S. Nagel, Fritz G. Polite, Crystal Southall

The benefit of diversity is espoused as an accepted core value of many colleges and universities. Through developed mission statements and implemented programmes, predominantly white US colleges and universities have increasingly demonstrated an organizational endorsement of multiculturalism. For many universities increased ethnic diversity has been partially achieved through admission of minority athletes (Watford and Comeaux 2006). College sport has been viewed

as a means for lower-class students from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds to gain access to a college education. This commitment to diversity is reflected in university and athletic

department policy statements prohibiting discrimination. For example, one major United States university currently prohibits discrimination ‘on the basis of an individual’s race, color, gender, national origin, age, religion, creed, disability, veteran’s status, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression’ (The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill n.d. para. 1, emphasis added). Within this landscape, however, scholars have noted that acceptance

of sexual-orientation diversity within college athletic departments, while improving, may not be universal. Though sexual orientation is considered a protected class on college campuses, many gay, lesbian and bisexual college athletes still fear being discovered or ‘outed’ (Griffin 1998; Anderson 2005a). Furthermore, as Griffin (1998) and Anderson (2005a) have noted, few college athletic departments have adopted specific sexual-orientation policy statements or developed inhouse programmes or workshops to discuss or address athletes’ sexualorientation attitudes or behaviours. Most college coaches and athletic administrators are not formally

educated in prejudice’s covert nature. Athletic administrators may have little inkling whether college athletes are more or less sexually prejudiced (i.e. homophobic) than the general student population or whether male athletes’ attitudes are similar or different from those of female athletes. While some administrators’ personal homophobia may keep them from being more inclusive (Anderson 2005b), others may believe prejudice against gay and lesbian athletes simply does not exist on their campus. In addition, even if coaches or administrators are interested in being

inclusive, there is little research investigating homophobia within the college sport culture. Brown et al. (2004) noted that, although researchers have examined campus climate related to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues (Evans 2001; Rankin 2003), few studies have assessed the athletic culture’s climate for gay, lesbian and bisexual college athletes (e.g. Wolf-Wendel, Toma and Morphew 2001; Gill et al. 2006). There have been even fewer studies that have investigated US college athletes’ attitudes and behaviours related to sexual orientation (Southall et al. 2004, 2006, 2009) and no studies that have examined the relationship between US college athletes’ ethnicity and such attitudes. Accordingly, utilizing social script and critical race theories, this

study investigated US male college athletes’ sexual-orientation attitudes and behaviours. Based upon previous findings of a significant relation between US college athletes’ gender and expressed sexual prejudice (Southall et al. 2009), this study utilized ethnicity as the

independent variable to look for a possible relationship between US male college athletes’ ethnicity and expressed sexual prejudice.