Iowa’s Pink Locker Room — Federal Issue?by Brad Warbiany
Many years ago, coach Hayden Fry of the Iowa Hawkeyes chose to paint the visiting team’s locker room pink. In the world of big-time college football, he believed that putting his opponents into a pink locker room would pacify them and give the Hawkeyes a better chance for victory.
Such a sentiment, though, doesn’t quite fly in the “enlightened” world found on college campuses today:
A former University of Iowa law professor plans to file a Title IX complaint alleging the University of Iowa’s insistence to maintain Kinnick Stadium’s pink locker room is ‘‘a civil rights issue.’’
Jill Gaulding, who left Iowa in 2005 and practices law in Minnesota, led a protest Nov. 17 outside Kinnick Stadium and gathered signatures for a petition to change the locker room.
She said she plans to file the federal complaint ‘‘in the next several weeks.’’
‘‘I’m interested in asking the Office for Civil Rights to investigate, and if they find that there’s a problem — which I hope that they will — we’ll see what happens then,’’ she said.
In 1979, former Iowa Coach Hayden Fry painted the visiting locker room pink for two primary reasons. He claimed the color has a passive effect on opponents. And, according to his biography, ‘‘pink is a often found in girls’ bedrooms, and because of that some consider it a sissy color.’’
Gaulding contends the pink locker room represents a harmful message ‘‘because of the impact it can have in our brains.’’
So we’ll go crying to the feds. We’ll define ourselves by our surroundings, and if they’re not exactly how we think is fair, we’ll run to the authorities to “make the bad men stop”. Just think what impact that lesson will have in our brains!
The color of a locker room is not against any rule of football or the NCAA. For opposing players, it should be seen as a fair bit of “psychological warfare”, and addressed as such. For a good coach or a good team, it can be used as a motivating factor to beat the team that you’re facing. The coach, for example, could explain to his players that it’s a sign of Iowa’s disrespect, motivating them to prove themselves. Which is exactly what I think would be the response to this:
‘‘Well, ask a question of your readers about whether Iowa should hang a banner across the opposing team’s locker room that said you’re a bunch of sissies,’’ she said. ‘‘Because if you think there might be a problem with that, then you should agree that there might be a problem with the pink locker room.’’
Oppose it? I’m guessing any opposing coaches would love to walk into the locker room and see that. College football is a highly emotional game, and if you really want to get a 20-year-old testosterone-fueled athlete to give his all in a game, trying to attack his manhood is a pretty simple factor. As a Purdue fan, I would think that the Boilermakers would be motivated by such a banner, not cowed into submission.
There are a lot of lessons that our young people need to learn before they enter real life. I’d say one of the most important is that often the world doesn’t quite do exactly what you like, but that you should suck it up and win anyway. It may take the form of an opposing team having a pink locker room, or it may have to do with a coworker who tries to take credit for your accomplishments to further his own career at your expense. Running to the feds might get your locker room fixed, but it will make you look like a crybaby. Running to human resources might get your coworker reprimanded, but it will destroy the level of respect that most of your other coworkers have for you.
The feds have no place in this, although I can’t say they’ll keep their noses out of it. Barring any NCAA rules prohibiting this, it’s a question for the University of Iowa as to how to balance their desire for political correctness with their desire for football success. The school’s administration is not changing, and while I have no problem with social pressure being exerted on them to change (such as the protest this lady led to get it changed), but to put this in the hands of federal judges is downright ludicrous.