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Athletes harassed at Menlo College

Courtesy of Amanda Parker

The Mills College soccer team had a more than challenging end to the season.

According to several members of the soccer team, during the final game of the season the players were subjected to homophobic remarks and racial epithets by the Menlo College women’s soccer team.

According to players, one particular Menlo player was responsible for many of the derogatory comments.

Sophomore Ixquel Sarin told The Weekly that she had a run-in with the player, who according to Sarin said, “You f-cking dyke, go back to your lesbian school.”

Mills Alumna and former team member Jenn Leier (’06), who was there in support of the Mills team, said she could see the harassment happening but little was being done to address it. Leier said when she was on the team, players would “get the occasional heckle, but nothing as hurtful as in that particular game.”

Junior Amanda Parker said that coaches and fans also took part in harassing the Mills players. “It felt like we were circus animals. It was very uncomfortable,” she said. “It became an instance where we had to defend ourselves as people rather than play the game.”

Although no one at Menlo College would comment directly on the incidents that allegedly occurred, the director of the Menlo Athletic Department made this statement in an email to The Weekly:
“I am deeply troubled and disappointed that the Mills College athletes and coaches had a negative competitive experience at Menlo College. Upon further examination, I am certain that the incidents and actions in question will serve as an opportunity to educate our athletes and coaches. The Athletic Department at Menlo College is deeply committed to the five core values of the NAIA’s Champions of Character program: respect, responsibility, integrity, leadership and sportsmanship.”

Mills soccer coach Colette Bowler said there was no cooperation from the Menlo coach Owen Flannery or the referee presiding over the game.

“I walked onto the field and told the referee that this was unacceptable … I told him it was ridiculous and needed to stop. The referee told me he was aware of it,” Bowler said.

The referee penalized no. 21, identified on the Menlo College Web site as senior Molly Flanagan, by giving her a yellow card. Junior Stephanie Gomez said that the player was carded for insubordination of the referee rather than unsportsman-like conduct. Several Mills players said that they saw the girl re-enter the game after
after the second half wearing a different jersey.

Gomez said that Mills gets targeted for this kind of harassment more often than other colleges because many of the opposing colleges in the conference are religiously affiliated.

MBA student Claudia Mercado said she also approached the referee without any results. In addition to being subjected to similar remarks made to Sarin, Mercado said she was the recipient of verbal harassment about her skin color by the player. Mercado said that the player attributed her skin color to a perceived lack of skill. The player also grabbed Mercado’s arm and became more physical when Mercado asked her to stop.

Sarin said that when Flannery approached his team about the incidents, she heard Menlo’s players burst into laughter. She said as the game progressed, the Menlo spectators also began to shout at the Mills team. According to the Mills players, they did not retaliate for the derogatory treatment.

Parker said she is proud of the team because they stood their ground and didn’t lower themselves to Menlo’s level.

“I think it was a test of my integrity that day. I have to be a bigger person and not go and get physical,” Mercado said.
Gomez said she is concerned that “some girls may re-evaluate their participation, especially if the [harassment] continues.”

This story was contributed to by Jana Rogers.