PSU’s Sherri Murrell sets an example for gay coaches and athletes

As we’ve mentioned here before, high-level athletes and team personnel have been coming out more and more lately. While this is of course great news (understatement), it’s hard not to notice that basically all of the stories we’ve been hearing are about dudes.

On the flip side of that, we have a true pioneer in terms of queer women in sport right here in Portland. Sherri Murrell, the head coach of PSU’s women’s basketball team, is the only openly gay division 1 basketball coach in the country. The Oregonian ran a profile of Murrell earlier in the week — front page, above the fold. It’s a great article, but it would be even greater if being gay and having a successful sports career didn’t constitute major news.

In my opinion, what is most remarkable about Murrell’s coming out is just how much of a non-event it was. A staffer asked if she wanted a picture of her family, which consists of her partner and their toddler twins, in the media guide, and she said yes. That’s it — no press conference, no big hullabaloo. Of course, this was most likely only possible because Murrell is a woman — while there are stigmas surrounding both queer women and queer men in sports, they are quite different and a man in Murrell’s position almost undoubtedly would not have been able to come out in the same low-key way. Still, by living her life openly and honestly, Murrell is doing what countless women cannot or will not do (check out the emails from closeted coaches excerpted in the article to see the depth of fear and secrecy at play.)

In a sport where negative recruiting (a practice in which coaches try to snag players by telling them that other schools have gay coaches or players) is rampant, and more than one life has been ruined by prejudicial coaching practices, Murrell, and the PSU basketball team as a whole, are important trail blazers. As Murrel continues to succeed, my hope is that she will inspire other coaches to live openly and honestly, which will in turn help to eradicate the homophobia present in women’s college basketball as a whole.

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