NOW demands changes after UF axes softball player
August/September 2003

On August 20th, Gainesville Area NOW and Campus NOW published the following open letter to University of Florida president Charles Young concerning Andrea Zimbardi, a player who was dismissed from the UF softball team for objecting to harassment she received, NOW charges, on the basis of her sexual orientation:

Dear Dr. Charles Young;

The UF/SFCC Campus National Organization for Women and Gainesville Area National Organization for Women are writing to protest the dismissal of catcher Andrea Zimbardi from the University of Florida's softball team. We demand the university take immediate action to end discrimination against its lesbian and gay students and faculty.

According to Andrea, she was singled out, harassed, humiliated, and morally judged by Head Coach Karen Johns and Assistant Coach Heather Compton-Butler. Both coaches created a hostile team environment by prying into players' personal lives, making offensive comments about homosexuality, pushing their religious dogma, and even outing Andrea and other women, Andrea said. We believe the abuse Andrea endured was due to her sexual orientation.

When Andrea expressed her concerns to Athletic Director Jeremy Foley, she was assured that no retaliation would result from her speaking out against the discrimination she experienced. Two days later she was dismissed from the team and she states she was told to seek mental help.

We are outraged by the pattern of harassment against lesbians and gays at the University of Florida. We are further angered by the insinuation that Andrea's sexual orientation is a mental disorder, that UF allowed the reported harassment to continue unabated, and that Andrea was punished for coming forward. While we welcome the university's long-overdue addition of sexual orientation to its anti-discrimination policy (UF was one of the last of 62 members in the Association of American Universities to make this change), we would like to see the administration actually put this policy into practice. UF needs to extend the same benefits to lesbian and gay students/staff that straight students/staff are afforded.

Students should be judged on their academic and athletic work, not their personal lives. Though the University of Florida has continued to cover-up the blatant bigotry of its athletic department, we are not going to remain silent. The university's actions are a national embarrassment and we will continue to publicize its discrimination until it stops. The National Organization for Women will not stand by while women are kept from participating fully in athletic programs, or any programs offered by the University of Florida.

Campus NOW and Gainesville Area NOW demand that the University of Florida immediately:

  1. Issue a public apology to Andrea Zimbardi.
  2. Cooperate fully with Andrea's lawyers in meeting her demands for compensation.
  3. Terminate coaches Karen Johns and Heather Compton-Butler for their continued discrimination against lesbian players.
  4. Prove the university's commitment to non-discrimination by extending health benefits to domestic partners.
  5. Resolve publicly to eradicate discrimination instead of those who are discriminated against. No more cover-ups.


UF/SFCC Campus NOW Board
Gainesville Area NOW Board

Contact UF Campus NOW ( or Gainesville Area NOW ( for more info.

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