Monday, February 13, 2006

Big East Showdown Disrupted By Anti-Gay Protest

Tonight #4 Villanova delighted the home fans with a 69-64 victory over top-ranked Connecticut in Philadelphia’s Wachovia Center.  However, the hard-fought action on the court was only part of the story.  Outside the arena, a conservative group espoused views that were far more combative than the Wildcats and Huskies.  The right-wing protesters denounced UConn for featuring a player named Gay.



The protest was organized by Sending Homosexuals Out Of Town (SHOOT).  Although Connecticut has no known homosexual players on its roster, SHOOT felt that the name of the Huskies star forward promotes an unacceptable lifestyle.  “Rudy Gay’s presence in UConn’s lineup is an affront to God,” remarked one activist.  “If we don’t speak up, soon every coach in America will want a Gay in his locker room.”



SHOOT was particularly interested in Monday’s contest to spread its message.  The matchup of top-5 teams drew 20,859 fans – the largest crowd to attend a college basketball game in Pennsylvania - and ESPN was on hand for the broadcast.  The organization planned to condemn both teams for having a player named Gay.  However, it switched gears after noticing a typo on its copy of the Villanova roster.  #14 on the Wildcats is actually Allan RAY, whose 19 second-half points sparked the victory.



The protest marked the second in three nights for SHOOT, whose members were on hand for Saturday’s Stanford-Gonzaga contest.  College basketball fans are well-acquainted with the play of Gonzaga superstar Adam Morrison.  However, SHOOT was disgusted to learn that the Zags’ roster also includes walk-on guard Stephen Gentry.  With the ESPN GameNight crew on hand, SHOOT members held up signs proclaiming, “God created Adam and Eve – NOT Adam and Steve.”



While SHOOT is still considered an extremist organization by most, the group is gaining visibility.  Although denied by the White House, reports have surfaced that President Bush was in support of Monday’s protest.  Sources note that the conservative president does not actually feel that Gay should be condemned for his last name.  However, President Bush has a sizable bet that Texas will win the national title, so having Gay out of action would help his cause.  SHOOT’s efforts also led baseball slugger Mike Piazza to call a press conference in which he firmly announced that he has no association with Rudy Gay.



Tonight the protesters were mostly jeered by observers outside the Wachovia Center.  Many were unaware of the group’s agenda – they just booed them as a natural reflex for Philly sports fans.  Others made it clear that they condemned the message SHOOT was attempting to spread.  “This is the City of Brotherly Love,” remarked one fan.  “It’s a place for tolerance, not for hate.”  Just then, he noticed a man wearing a Dallas Cowboys jersey and screamed, “I HOPE YOU DIE!!!”



The protesters felt that the game’s result was a sign from above.  “His Will gave Villanova the strength to triumph over evil,” noted one SHOOT member.  Specifically, he was referring to center Will Sheridan, who matched his career-high with 13 points and also grabbed 10 rebounds.  The organization also feels that UConn is pre-ordained to fall at West Virginia on Saturday, citing the obscure biblical verse, “And His enemies shall be Pittsnogled.”



Although its members’ views are outside the mainstream, SHOOT is correct that UConn is an affront to God.  On January 28, the Huskies scored a 76-62 road victory at Providence – alma mater of God Shammgod.