RICHMOND, VA—An online petition is calling for the reinstatement of VCU Women's Volleyball coach James Finley, who claims he was let go from the university because he's gay.
The online petition has more than 5,000 signatures, asking VCU President Michael Rao to reinstate Finley.
James Finley, the head coach of VCU Women's Volleyball team, says he believes the reason his university contract wasn't renewed is because he's gay.
Finley has been with the team for eight seasons, and during that time, says the team has performed well. He say, the reason he was let go is due to his sexual orientation.
A meeting addressing concerns associated with Virginia Commonwealth University's commitment to diversity in the Department of Athletics, and within the university, was held in November.
VCU's new athletic director Ed McLaughlin told Finley in mid-November his contract wouldn't be renewed. Finley says that meeting was their first official meeting, and says he was baffled and confused.
"We sat down and coach immediately he said ‘Coach, we are not renewing your contract. We want to go in a new direction. You won't be employed as of December 31st. Thanks for your time.'"
Finely feels his eight years at VCU came to an abrupt end, all because he is gay.
"I am not being judged by my performance," Finely said, "I am being judged just because I don't fit into the box the athletic director wants."
Although Finely recalls several instances where McLaughlin went out of his way to avoid him, he says he didn't feel direct discrimination until players on his team told him what McLaughlin said.
"He said we want someone who can represent the university well. And that just stabbed me in the heart. It's because he doesn't want a gay man," stated Finley.
A statement from Ed McLaughlin refutes the claims. "I came to VCU because of how the university embraces diversity, and it's unfortunate Mr. Finely feels the decision not to renew his contract was based on anything other than previously stated concerns. And that the volleyball program needs new leadership."
VCU is investigating the situation…stay with 8News for updates.
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