Men's Basketball, Sports, WVU Sports

Morgantown Pride, Fairness WV issue statements in response to Bob Huggins

MORGANTOWN — Morgantown Pride, a nonprofit that provides social and educational resources for the LGBTQ community in Monongalia County, and Fairness West Virginia, a statewide civil rights organization that advocates for LGBTQ people, released separate statements Tuesday in response to the use of an anti-gay slur by WVU men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins during a radio interview Monday afternoon.

“Morgantown Pride is horrified and disgusted by the rhetoric espoused by Coach Huggins,” the organization said in a statement posted on social media. “Using homophobic slurs and making light of transgender inclusion in sporting events is completely unacceptable behavior.”

Huggins appeared on Bill Cunningham’s show on 700 WLW in Cincinnati and used the slur in reference to basketball fans at Xavier University. Huggins spent 16 season coaching at Xavier’s crosstown rival Cincinnati.

“Coach Bob Huggins embarrassed his team, his university and Mountaineers everywhere yesterday by casually using a homophobic slur and disparaging transgender people in a radio interview,” Fairness WV said in a statement. “It’s well known that this slur has been a tool to torment and harass our community. There is no excuse for using that kind of language in the year 2023.”

Huggins has been WVU’s head coach since 2007 and guided the Mountaineers to the 2010 Final Four. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2022 and is one of only six Division I men’s basketball coaches to amass 900 wins.

“Bob Huggins is a national public figure that represents our beautiful community when he speaks,” Morgantown Pride said. “We believe that this rhetoric does not represent the welcoming and vibrant LGBTQ supportive community that our elected officials and activists have worked hard to cultivate.”

“Coach Huggins’ words are particularly painful because he is loved by thousands of West Virginians, including many LGBTQ people,” Fairness WV said. “Thousands of young Mountaineers look up to Coach Huggins, and this week they saw their role model using slurs and demeaning another team for their faith.” 

Huggins issued an apology released by WVU Monday evening in which he apologized to those he hurt and said he would accept any consequences.

“His apology was a good first step, but now he needs to show us that his words are not empty,” Fairness WV wrote. “One of the most important things Coach Huggins can do right now is to listen to the people he has hurt. Our team will gladly offer our time to help the WVU athletics department learn more about the impact of his comments and to understand the harm that these slurs cause. Ultimately, though, it’s up to Coach Huggins and university officials to make amends and prove to our community they understand the seriousness of this harmful rhetoric.

“Our community has increasingly been under attack, and we desperately need leaders who understand that hate has no place in West Virginia — including on our basketball courts.” 

Morgantown Pride called for Safe Zone training for Huggins and his coaching staff and, ultimately, Huggins’ termination.

“We believe that this incident requires the termination of Bob Huggins as this type of rhetoric creates a space in which students, community members and most especially players are not safe,” they wrote. “However, if WVU Athletics chooses the wrong path and does not terminate Bob Huggins, the culture that he has obviously cultivated in which individuals feel so comfortable saying homophobic slurs that they would do so whilst being interviewed requires significant investment of both time and labor to correct.”

WVU announced Monday evening that the situation is under review and will be addressed by the University and the athletic department.

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