Just three days before Thanksgiving, one of the most loved and most successful coaches at Virginia Commonwealth University, Coach James Finley, was fired. After delivering a 25-6 winning season and graduating every one of his seniors, Coach Finley was unceremoniously shown the door — for no reason other than being unashamedly who he is…a gay man.
When letting the team know about the news, the Athletic Director who fired Coach Finley said that he wanted to find someone who “better represented VCU.” I have trouble believing that VCU could find a better representative than Coach Finley, who is reportedly a kind and generous man, and an excellent volleyball coach who turned a shambles of a team into the most successful volleyball program in 20 years at VCU.
Virginia, like 28 other states, has no non-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) workers. That means that it’s completely legal in most places in this country to fire — or to not hire — LGBT folks. These kinds of homophobic decisions are made all over the country every day — but this time, we’re fighting back.
As a school built upon the values of inclusion and diversity, VCU has an opportunity to lead a national conversation to ensure that one’s work is judged solely by their success, not by their sexual orientation or gender identity. We urge you to overturn this decision and to welcome Coach Finley back on campus in time to usher our volleyball team into another winning season next year. Our university is better than this, our state is better than this, and our country is better than this.
A petition has been formed by Camilla Lee Hill, Graduate Assistant for LGBT & Women’s Services at VCU, to Reinstate Coach Finley now! Hill stated that:
My students are angry and scared by this decision, and I feel certain that VCU will lose students, staff, and faculty if this decision is not overturned. Furthermore, as the daughter of an openly gay Division I volleyball coach and as an openly gay Division I field hockey player myself, I’m shocked that Coach Finley has lost his job for the egregious offense of simply being himself.
Michael Rao, VCU President
Velma Jackson-Williams, Assistant Vice Provost and Director of EEO/AA Services
Reinstate Coach Finley!
We’re asking you to reconsider the decision made by VCU’s Athletic Director to fire Coach Finley. As a school built upon the values of inclusion and diversity, VCU has an opportunity to lead a national conversation to ensure that one’s work is judged solely by their success, not by their sexual orientation or gender identity. We urge you to overturn this decision and to reinstate Coach Finley in time to usher our volleyball team into another winning season!
For more information, please check out these two stories: