Wowza: Gymnastics, Religion, and Clusterfucks

So recently I posted an interview with an NCAA gymnast who said that she found the religiosity of her teammates trying at times. Later she was asked to have me take the interview down. I don’t know the whole story, all I know is she was told that she didn’t go through policy. Or something. Anyway, what she had to say has erupted all over the gymnastics internet. There are multi-page threads devoted to this interview. I love Courtney Kupets and Corrie Lothrop but they apparently weren’t as interesting when interviewed!
It’s a fascinating thing. I was tempted to leave the interview up, but I didn’t want repercussions to slam down on this athlete. On the one hand, I feel like she is an adult and I did say I’d be blogging it; however, goodness knows I have said too much occasionally and had to suffer the consequences. I remain really tempted to leave it, as I think it was a very good and very illuminating interview, but I don’t want to hurt this gymnast. Argh. Any advice?
Anyway, the interview really made me think. If I were a gymnast on a team that included several very religious gymnasts, I would have a hard time. I know, I’m a churchgoer, but I’m also a Unitarian Universalist–a bit different than your average hardcore Christian. I don’t always believe in god/God. I almost never believe in an afterlife. I am super socially liberal (ya think?) what with my insistence that all Teh Gays should be allowed to get married and we should, you know, TRUST WOMEN. I know, crazy ideas. I’m obviously going to hell. I get extremely annoyed, to put it mildly, when folks start using the bible/religion to justify hate. Nope, that’s hate, pure and simple.
But I digress.
Suffice to say that if I were a gymnast on a very religious team I too would feel uncomfortable. And apparently, on this team, the toned down version of religion is blessing food and group prayer. Now. That is NOT toned down. Separation of church and state much? If the students who find prayer helpful want to pray before meets, that is most certainly their right, and I’m sure it helps them perform better. (If there is a God, I doubt s/he is super worried about a gymnastics meet, what with earthquakes and poverty and abuse and things like that). But group prayer? No way. Not okay.
So that was interesting.
I know, I know, there’s no requirement for non-religious gymnasts to pray. But it’s a bit like the Pledge of Allegiance (I never say the Under God, do you? See: separation of church and state. See also: FUNDAMENTAL TENETS OF AMERICA). If the entire class is saying the Under God, don’t you think you are going to feel damn awkward not saying it? Don’t you think it might make you a bit of an outcast?
For the record, I don’t have a problem with, say, BYU praying together before a meet. I have a problem with BYU, sometimes, but not their praying, because they are a religious school. Says so on the website.
Also for the record: I don’t have a problem with religious folks. I have a REALLY BIG problem with those religious folks who use their beliefs to oppress others.
Bottom line: there are two sad things about this story. One is that this gymnast apparently didn’t feel especially safe in her beliefs on her team. The other is that saying that and having it acknowledged apparently kicked up some trouble for her. Given that she is an adult and responsible for her own decisions, I find this a bit stunning. I’m sure there is a media policy at this university. She probably didn’t follow it. But as a writer, it makes me really angry that I have to silence myself as well. As you can see, I am referring to this gymnast without using a name or school. If you comment please do the same. It’s a shame. I really don’t want to. I really don’t like censorship.

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6 responses

  1. Since Courtney Kupets is no longer part of the Georgia team and Lothrop is not yet a member of the Utah team they didn't have to go through any vetting process to talk to a blogger and neither of them made any sort of inflammatory comments. (although lothrop being a minor, I wonder if she needed permission from her parents?) I admire Kat for speaking up. I hope you will still be able to do more interviews in the future!

    March 3, 2010 at 5:56 pm

  2. It's interesting, because I think this highlights a central challenge of journalism – that the most interesting, most valuable information is often the information that people want to take back or shut down.I suspect you might find some interesting food for thought in a journalism member society's code of ethics, actually… Where they would take you, I can't guess.

    March 3, 2010 at 6:55 pm

  3. It is against the rules for gymnasts in College to do any interview without permission so taht is probably why.

    March 3, 2010 at 9:39 pm

  4. L

    Two things:1) I saw the interview before you took it down. One of the reasons I think the gymnast was so honest was because you did a great job asking the right questions.2) Policies unfortunately are important- and I think you did the right thing by taking it down.

    March 4, 2010 at 1:25 am

  5. That was one of the best interviews I ever read with a gymnast- how freaking typical it stirred up a shitstorm. Poor Kat. The gymnastics world can be so Stepford. I am glad I got to read that article before you took it down.

    March 7, 2010 at 1:58 am

  6. My thoughts if you are interested: http://olympicssportsnews.blogspot.com/2010/03/sports-and-religion.html

    March 7, 2010 at 6:25 am

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