Posted April 25, 2012

Nebraska assistant Ron Brown is many things, but for how long?

Bo Pelini, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Ron Brown

Nebraska assistant Ron Brown (center) received praise for leading a prayer circle at Penn State in the wake of Joe Paterno's firing, and has come under fire for his recent anti-gay comments. (ZUMAPRESS.com)

We promise to return to making jokes about Todd Graham soon, but we need to detour into complete seriousness here for just a bit. We saw the lead “Nebraska assistant coach Ron Brown says he’ll keep speaking out against homosexuality even if it costs him his job” and, well:

“To be fired for my faith would be a greater honor than to be fired because we didn’t win enough games,” Brown said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I haven’t lost any sleep over it. I realize at some point, we live in a politically correct enough culture where that very well could happen.”

People are faceted creatures. The IT guy who shuns any light that doesn’t emanate from a computer screen can treasure an encyclopedic knowledge of orchid and bonsai care. The teacher who inspired you to read and write for pleasure, really read and really write, might be a cold father to his children and an indifferent lover to his wife. I got a really nice note not too long ago from a guy who used to bully me mercilessly in junior high, thanking me for saying nice things about his football team, although I think he’d still throw me in a locker if he got the chance. Facets are funny.

It was just six months ago that Brown earned national acclaim for leading a prayer for healing at midfield before the Cornhuskers’ game at scandal-torn Penn State.

Remember that? It was a really nice moment, actually. Really.

The 55-year-old Brown knows he walks a fine line as a high-profile employee of a taxpayer-funded university. His detractors say he crossed it last month when he attended an Omaha City Council hearing and testified against an anti-discrimination ordinance that extended protections to gay and transgender people.

Brown has said he will continue to speak out against homosexuality even if it costs him his job with the Cornhuskers. (Icon SMI)

What happened is that Brown traveled to a city where he does not reside in order to threaten council members there with divine retribution if the city made gender identity and sexual orientation a protected class. How Brown slept before then, knowing a portion of the population in a city an hour away might be on the verge of gaining some recourse for matters like workplace discrimination, is not for us to understand.

“For those of you on this council who have a relationship with Christ, and only you know if you do, you will be held to great accountability for the decision you make,” he said.

Brown’s actions in Omaha drew out his school’s chancellor, who did a little distancing (read more at the Journal Star link above), but the athletic department is behind him. Again, from the AP:

Coach Bo Pelini and athletic director Tom Osborne say Brown is a good coach and he is within his rights to express his personal views.

Pelini and Osborne are correct. Remember, people are faceted. Use “and” to describe them, not “but.” Brown is not “a good football coach, but a bigot.” He is “a good football coach, and a bigot.” His brand of Christianity is not the brand I know, but he has every right to it. And I personally like my bigots loud and proud, acting out in identifiable ways. It makes them easier to detour around.

Brown, again to the Journal-Star:

“I had no intention of wanting to pull the University of Nebraska into my belief system, so I want to clarify that,” he said.

Except that the University allows him to promote his ministry work on his official school bio and use its imagery in his ministry videos. Nebraska also has this pesky anti-discrimination policy that pretty clearly says people are people, which seems to be a mighty big problem for Brown. How much closer can he edge to that policy before coming into direct conflict with the school? Is that line already blurring away in the past?

Putting aside the wide, weird, gulfy gap of “honor” between being a religious martyr and performing a job poorly: I do not pretend to know Brown’s mind, but is it out of the question to think he’d be happy if he got fired? One facet doesn’t define him, but from his words to the AP it seems as though he’d be fine if it did. Religious extremism and martyrs go way back, after all.

“Why don’t you ask me why I hired him?” Pelini said. “I hired him because he’s a good football coach. He’s trustworthy. He has a lot of integrity. I hired him because I believe in him as a football coach and a guy who has positive impact on kids.”

Not all kids. Not even all kids at Nebraska.

It is my fervent hope that Brown finds some love in his heart and in his true religion, and shifts his cares from Omaha back to Lincoln, to his own locker room, where he’s bound to alienate some kid someday who might need him, if he hasn’t already. And if he’s happy just being a mouthpiece for division and discrimination, I hope he’ll forgive me if I begin to forget the “good coach” facet and see the bigot first. It’d be the Christian thing to do.

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