Nearly a year after claiming she was discriminated against and dismissed from the Florida softball team because of her sexual orientation, former catcher Andrea Zimbardi has reached an agreement that ends her lawsuit against the school.
Though there was no monetary settlement, Florida agreed to several changes in its antidiscrimination policies and extensive training for staff and athletes _ a process that began with a two-hour session on Monday with the school's top athletic administrators.
"They did not admit liability and continue to deny that she was released for anything regarding her sexual orientation," said Karen Doering, staff attorney with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, who represented Zimbardi. "But they did recognize the larger issue of homophobia in sports and the impact it can have on student athletes. One of the things Andrea was insistent on was if we're going to resolve this suit, it was very important to her that the school implement training and so forth to help ensure that other athletes be judged based on their skills and abilities rather than their sexuality. It is a satisfactory conclusion."
As part of the agreement, Florida will include sexual orientation in its annual nondiscrimination staff training; amend its nondiscrimination materials to include sexual orientation, create a method in which student-athletes can report alleged violations of discrimination and develop guidelines on prayer during practices or athletic events.
"The University of Florida is committed to creating a positive atmosphere for all student-athletes," associate athletic director and senior woman administrator Lynda Tealer said in a statement. "We feel that the terms of this agreement support our commitment and facilitates the provision of additional tools and training to our coaches, student-athletes and staff."
Zimbardi, a former walk-on turned co-captain, was dismissed from the team on March 6, about a week after she met with athletic officials to express concerns she was being targeted by the coaching staff because she's a lesbian.
"I am thrilled that we have reached an agreement that will enable us to put all this behind us," said Zimbardi, who will graduate with a master's degree in engineering this spring. "My goal from the very beginning has been to help ensure that the other gay and lesbian athletes at UF feel welcome, accepted and judged solely on their talent."
On Tuesday, Helen Carroll, a former women's basketball coach and AD who is the coordinator for the Homophobia in Sports Project, facilitated a training session with the Florida softball players and coaches.
"It went very, very well," Carroll said. "I'm impressed with the acceptance and willingness to embrace something that will make their teams more competitive and make them better people as well. (Coaches) are good people who want the best for their players."