An Open Letter to the NCAA

(A recent Facebook post by our current mayor, Maher Maso prompted me to write my letter today.)

Let me start by saying, that my adopted home of Frisco is one of the best cities to live in (not just by my standards, but by organizations that analyze these types of claims). While this letter may appear to be critical in some ways, it does not take away from the fact that I have continued to call Frisco home since 1999, and am proud of all that our city has accomplished since I’ve been a resident.

In 1999 our small city had a population of just over 22,000, and now we have a thriving population of over 150,000. In that time, a lot has changed, and a lot hasn’t. It is one of these things that has not changed which brings me to write this letter.

The NCAA has fast become a progressive organization that recognizes the importance of diversity among its student athletes. For many years, the NCAA has been in the forefront of social issues like race, gender equality and now sexual orientation. While many other organizations share these qualities, the NCAA has been a leader, and this is something to be applauded.

As a core value, the NCAA believes in and is committed to diversity, inclusion and gender equity among its student-athletes, coaches and administrators (borrowed from your website). But these words became actions, when earlier this year, the NCAA announced changes to its selection requirements for host cities or bidding cities of their championship games. In April 2016, the NCAA Board of Governors adopted a new requirement for sites hosting or bidding on NCAA events in all divisions “to demonstrate how they will provide an environment that is safe, healthy, and free of discrimination, plus safeguards the dignity of everyone involved in the event.”

Looking at the rationale behind this new requirement, the board was clear that this change followed recent actions of legislatures in several states that actively passed laws allowing residents to refuse to provide services to some people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. While Frisco has not – to date – actively passed laws to discriminate against the LGBT community, we are in Texas, and many of our local elected state representatives, and our very own Attorney-General (formerly our local elected state senator) think differently. In the Texas legislature, there are already bills being introduced that would override local ordinances where progressive cities like Houston, Dallas, Austin, El Paso and Plano have enacted to protect their citizens. Our Attorney-General advocates discrimination against the LGBT community regularly (it seems) as it relates to bathrooms, education, religious freedom, marriage and healthcare through his continued actions and statements. He is not the only elected official that thinks like this.

Historically, the City of Frisco was asked to amend its discrimination statement as early as 2002, which at the time the City declined to do. The city has been asked multiple times since then, and each time the issue of extending protections to the staff and citizens of Frisco has gone unanswered, or unacted on. Among our own elected city council, not one has acted to bring this forward (requests have been made), or publicly stated that they support changing our local ordinances. Even among our current mayoral candidates (for next year’s election) there has been resounding silence on this issue. After nearly 15 years of this failure to offer these protections to the LGBT citizens and employees of Frisco, many within the LGBT community have succumbed to not disturbing the waters, or trying to push this issue due to the lack of support from our elected officials and senior city staff.

As recently as 2007, my (now) husband ran for elected office within the city, and while many believe he was the most qualified person for the office, the bigotry of our community – especially amongst many of the city’s faith community – ensured that “the gay guy” didn’t get elected. This was less than ten years ago, and while much has changed in our society, that deeply held conviction that the LGBT community should not have the same rights as others, or be able to live equally among our city without prejudice, still exists today. I think the recent national presidential election re-ignited much of those feelings among many within our city, and perhaps – in part – that is what inspired me to write this letter.

A number of years ago, our city manager once told some of our LGBT community that the City didn’t discriminate, so there was no need to change the law. Ironically, while the city is required to make accommodations relating to all marriages (including same-sex) for its staff (pending AG Paxton’s attempt to overturn this law), it still can fire a person for being gay. Just because it hasn’t, doesn’t mean it won’t. This does not “safeguard the dignity of everyone involved in the event” if those that live and work within our own city – who are impacted by the event every year – can’t live with the freedom or protections enjoyed by other citizens when the NCAA is not in town.

Well today, I’m am writing to you to try to once again bring this issue to the forefront for our city’s leaders and our community. Frisco’s city motto is “Progress in Motion” and while we have seen a good deal of progress in bringing championship football games (NCAA Division I, NCAA Division I Football Championship), training centers and headquarters for major football franchises, and multiple professional sports franchises within the city’s boundaries, we are still a city that does not value all of its citizens and employees enough to be progressive enough to legally protect its LGBT citizens. This has to change.

So I ask both the NCAA and the Southland Conference, how does Frisco comply with these new requirements. How does a city which has actively ignored the requests from its LGBT citizens for over a decade meet a requirement to safeguard “the dignity of everyone involved in the event?”  How does a city which hides behind “federal laws being enough protection” meet the requirement to provide “an environment that is safe, healthy, and free of discrimination?”

I applaud the NCAA’s commitment to diversity and the actions (not just words) that the NCAA has taken to create an inclusive environment for your students, and now I’m asking how you can help our citizens of Frisco advance to that level of commitment. How do you help us move this forward so that when the NCAA comes to town in January, we are not just progressive on this one issue for a few days, but everyday?

As I said when I started, Frisco is my home. I love this city, and while I believe I and my husband have contributed to the change in some people’s minds and hearts about us and the LGBT community, we still have a long way to go. We can’t do it alone, and we need your help.

James Nunn
Frisco, Texas