Fearless and Competitive: Lecture speaks about the dynamics of LGBTQI+ athletes in sports industry

Fleurette King, Director of the Rainbow Center for nearly a decade, gave her final lecture Wednesday afternoon about LGBTQI+ athletes. King has taken a new position as Assistant Vice President of Equity and Inclusion at the University of Northern Colorado. (Junbo Huang/The Daily Campus)

Students, staff and faculty from the University of Connecticut assembled Wednesday afternoon at the Rainbow Center Director Fleurette “Flo” King’s speech about protests by LGBTQI+ athletes; one of many keynote speakers who have participated in the Rainbow Center’s weekly “Out to Lunch” (OTL) series.

The lecture topic was part of the reason why she wore a navy blue sweater with the words “UConn’s Women’s basketball,” khaki pants and bright red shoes.

“You would be amazed as to how many people approach me and say, ‘Are you the coach for the women’s basketball team?’” she said that followed by a wave of laughter. “And I was like, ‘have you ever seen a big black woman on the sidelines?’…Sometimes, I do say, ‘yes I am.’”

"The ‘Out to Lunch’ lecture series is a way for people who have experienced working or identify within the (LGBTQI+) community to present about their unique perspectives of the community," said Elizabeth Radcliff, a fifth semester human development and family studies major and a current student employee of the Rainbow Center.

King spoke on a broader scale about how the role of sports is emphasized as a heteronormative activity and also a male-dominated area. She asked the audience for examples of discrimination in sports.

“You can say it…why not? Write it down and let somebody else say it,” King said when a female audience member was worried to say “dyke” in her example about stereotyping female athletes as lesbians.

“Now what does that mean? It becomes a derogatory term, right? …This whole fear that we’re going to label you as this ‘lesbian archetype’ is highly stigmatized to prevent you from being yourself whether you are (a lesbian) or not. So, very good,” King said.

Positive praise aside, King spoke on a broader level about misconceptions of the sports industry. One example was the belief that sports is in the realm of neutrality when it comes to politics.

“We like to have this romantic vision of sports, right? That it’s for everybody,” King said. “But when you start breaking down who has access, who gets to play, what is the cost, what resources they have, who makes the major decisions in our sports, then you can start to see the social analysis around it.”

This was the final lecture King will participate in, as she will be moving for her new position as Assistant Vice President of Equity and Inclusion at the University of Northern Colorado.

But she said her experiences at UConn are memories she will never forget, and her passion for sports sparked her desire to speak about these issues.

“They’re no longer willing to be reluctant sport attendees and sheepish benchwarmers. They’re here to play and coach with fearless and competitive hearts,” King said.

The next OTL lecture series will feature clinical social worker Irwin Krieger, located at the Rainbow Center on Nov. 9 from 12 to 1 p.m. For more information, visit http://rainbowcenter.uconn.edu/.


Arlene Blum is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at arlene.blum@uconn.edu