Former Belmont women’s soccer coach Lisa Howe, who made national headlines last week after her controversial exit from the university, issued a statement on Monday that expressed appreciation for the public’s support.
Students claim that Howe was forced out after acknowledging that her partner was pregnant with their first child. But both Howe and the university deny that her sexuality was the reason for her dismissal. In a press release issued by her attorney, Howe acknowledges the controversy and calls for an understanding of diversity at the Christian school.
"I was a good student athlete recruiter, had an organized and professionally run program, and was one of Belmont’s best employees," she said. "None of that changed when I acknowledged that I am a lesbian and that my partner and I are expecting a baby. I am proud of who I am and my family and our future, and I want every person — no matter what race, religion, nationality, or sexuality they represent — to feel the same way. Yes, I would have preferred to not be in the headlines, but if my situation leads to one person beginning to feel acceptance now, or one person becoming more understanding of diversity, and if people can talk openly and honestly about topics they never broached before, then this unfortunate situation will have served a positive purpose."
A statement released jointly by Howe and Belmont University last Thursday said that it a mutual agreement for Howe to conclude her employment with Belmont. Tennessee does not have a non-discrimination policy based on sexual orientation, so Howe has no legal recourse.
Since her departure from the university, students have responded by protesting the decision. Team members and other Belmont students staged a rally on Sunday in support of their former coach, and yesterday a sit-in was held in front of the president’s office. Similar events are expected throughout the week.