The following are excerpts, quotes and summaries from the ‘Expert Report’ created by Donna A. Lopiano PH.D, which has been created to independently look at all of the evidence provided in the case of: Shannon Miller, Jen Banford and Annette Wiles v The board of Regents of The University of Minnesota
All of the content in our summaries have been pulled directly from the report and are in no way opinions, conclusions or comments of the FCN. We have simply provided our audience with a concise and shorter version of the report written by Donna A. Lopiano PH.D in the hope of raising awareness of the case.
There are 8 questions in which Donna A. Lopiano PH.D has been asked to present her findings, and over the coming few days, we will be publishing each individually for you to read. The full 124 page report which is a public document will be available on the FCN website for all to read further.
The FCN would like to offer its full support of Shannon Miller, Jennifer Banford and Annette Wiles. Discrimination of any coach based on their gender, sexual orientation, race or any other factor is abhorrent and we stand by those that speak out against it. We have decided to release content from this report with the aim of raising awareness of such discrimination and to inspire other coaches who may be going through similar incidents to speak the truth.
Did you find any evidence of coaches Miller, Banford and/or Wiles being harassed and/or treated differently as employees because of their sexual orientation, national origin and/or age or being subjected to retaliation because they raised gender or other protected category inequity issues in the treatment of themselves or their female athletes?
Earlier on in the report, it has been identified that the three female coaches were in fact treated differently with regards to compensation due to their genders. i.e. Shannon Miller was being paid a basic wage lower than the lesser successful men’s head coach (amoungst other things). However, this question addresses whether the coaches were discriminated against and treated differently due to their sexuality and nation of birth.
Discrimination based on Sexual Orientation – the three female coaches had contested that “lesbian employees endured a homophobic athletic department culture that existed over a long period of time” which was never addressed. The report states that whilst “homophobic individuals” may not stand up and be as overt as to say ‘I hate gays’. they express their views behind closed doors to “persons perceived to be allies”. There are a number of incidents which are revealed in the report that “conclude that Miller (Shannon), Banford (Jennifer) and Wiles (Annette) were victims of sexual harassment based on their sexual orientation.”
Examples of this include:
- Shannon and Jennifer being “intentially excluded from participating in an athletics department and community golf tournament”
- Shannon was referred to as “dyke” by former softball coach and compliance officer Bill Haller, who was also heard stating “I will do everything to bring her [Shannon] down”, after he disagreed with a decision Shannon had made regarding the hiring of a coach candidate,
- From 2010 – 2011, Shannon received a number of “harrassing mail in her work mail box” calling her ‘dyke’ telling her to ‘go home’
- The placard on Shannon’s office door was defaced and her name replaced with the word ‘dyke’
- Shannon and Jennifer missed an awards evening to celebrate Bill Haller being inducted into the Hall of Fame due to a ice-hockey game and were humiliated infant of the 90% male audience by inappropriately suggesting they were avoiding it because of who was being honoured.
- Shannon’s colleague reported that a fellow male coach referred to Shannon as a “fucking dyke” and “fucking bitch” and also that he did not attend a UMD fundraising event in which Shannon was speaking because “that Dyke is going to be up on stage speaking with her trophy.”
- when the announcement of the non-renewal of Shannon and Jennifers employment took place, an anonymous twitter account was created “containing inflammatory comments” about both coaches and was followed by various men’s hockey players, the men’s equipment manager and the official UMD hockey twitter account run by the male assistant athletics director
- Larry Nelson – a part-time sports information office employee would “regularly make comments referring” to Shannon as “fucking dyke” and say things like “fucking women suck all the money out of the athletic department, what a waste of money”.
“None of these overt homophobic incidents were ever mentioned in any department meeting and Athletic Director Neilson never publicly condemned these acts of bigotry.”
These are just a few examples of the treatment Shannon, Jennifer and Annette received and whilst the report states that it is not “attesting to the factual existence of each of the above listed actions”. Donna A. Lopiano PH.D has simply collated all the allegations to “show that their is a sum total”.
Discrimiantion Based on National Origin – “The toxic culture of the athletic department was not limited to discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation. In my opinion [Donna A. Lopiano PH.D], there was also evidence of harassment and bias with regard to national origin and race.”
An example of these cases are as follows:
- Shannon reported that Bill Haller (the Assistant Athletic Director for Compliance) referred to a particular case with a black athlete by saying “black athletes don’t seem to work out at UMD”. He was also noted to make another rude comment “about this Native American athlete which” Shannon “preferred not to repeat”.
- it has been reported that Bill Haller “contuned his practice of putting up road blocks, burying paperwork, not responding to [our] emails and phone calls” in order to delay or “lose” a number of none- American native athletes
- “women ice hockey players were experiencing reverse discrimination.” “Instead of the institution going out of its way to admit international athletes, as it does for non-athlete international students with lower TOEFL scores, UMD was going out of its way to deny admission to international athletes with lower TOEFL scores.”
- Berlo was quoted as saying “There are too many Canadians around here, I’ve never seen so many Canadians” when referring to a number of coaching staff
- Shannon received “hate mail” telling her to “go home” to her native country of Canada
Discrimination Based on Age – “[Shannon] Miller was among the older head coaches in the athletic department at age 51 and suffered an adverse employment decision in that her employment agreement was not renewed. [Annette] Wiles was also among the older head coaches in the athletic department at the age of 45 and suffered a hostile employment environment that I believe was intended to drive her to resign.
Retaliation for Expressing Inequitable Treatment for Concerns – as well as all of the above discriminatory treatment the coaches received, the report outlines a number of occasions in which it is believed they were also mistreated for being whistle blowers.
Examples of this are:
In conclusion to all of the above accusations and the others included in the full report, Donna A. Lopiano PH.D states that she was “amazed at the athletic director’s and the institution’s tolerance for the unprofessional behavior of [Bill] Haller and others”.
“UMD failed to find that Haller acted inappropriately because they maintained that he acted that way with all sports, all athletes and all coaches – as if this universal conduct excused his discriminatory conduct. By doing so, UMD knowingly allowed and perpetuated his discriminatory behavior. There is a difference between an employee acting badly with everyone – being ornery, cross, angry, uncooperative or unprofessional — and illegal behavior. “
According to the report, there was a number of staff failures including those by athletic director Nielson and later on by Berlo. “This hostile environment continued unabated under Berlo, with Berlo making the decisions to terminate Miller and Banford and force Wiles to resign. The institution fully realized that Berlo’s actions against three of the four female head coaches would result in litigation and did nothing to stop it.”
For more information about the mention case, please visit the following links: