The 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament started with three Christian universities Liberty University, Oral Roberts University (ORU), and Loyola University Chicago in the field of 68 teams. Liberty lost in the first round to Oklahoma State, but Oral Roberts and Loyola Chicago won both of their games in the first and second round to advance the coveted sweet 16.
As the #15 ranked Oral Roberts Golden Eagles have been preparing for their game against the #3 ranked Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday, columnist Hemal Jhaveri has said that the school’s anti-LGBTQ+ stance should ban them from the NCAA competition.
Tulsa, Okla.’s ORU was founded by charismatic Christian televangelist Oral Roberts (1918-2009) in 1963. Writing for USA Today’s For the Win’s sports section, Jhaveri argues that biblical values and beliefs make ORU “not just a relic of the past, but wholly incompatible” with the NCAA’s stated values of equality and inclusion.
USA Today’s columnist attacked Oral Roberts University’s student handbook saying, “In their student conduct section, under the heading of Personal Behavior, the school expressly condemns homosexuality, mentioning it in the same breath as ‘occult practices.’”
Jhaveri also attacked the school’s honor code for requiring students to pledge that they won’t engage in any homosexual activity and for their stance on only seeing marriage as strictly being between one man and one woman. Jhaveri said Oral Roberts is “free to impose whatever standards of behavior they see fit,” but made sure that her readers knew that those standards are “wildly out of line with modern society and the basic values of human decency.”
Not stopping there she said the university’s toxic fundamentalism that obsesses over chastity, abstinence, and absurd dress codes is something that could be debated. However, she said, ORU’s anti-LGBTQ+ stance is not debatable and “is nothing short of discriminatory and should expressly be condemned by the NCAA.”
Calling Oral Roberts University a “hotbed of institutional transphobia, homophobia with regressive, sexist policies,” Jhaveri attempted to condemn the NCAA’s decision for allowing ORU be part of the tournament. She said, “Fans and media, eager to embrace a Cinderella story, helped push that narrative along, either without knowing all the facts or willingly burying them as irrelevant.”
The For the Win’s columnist views ORU’s ideology as dangerous and hateful, but said, “The fact is, any and all anti-LGBTQ+ language in any school’s polices should ban them from NCAA competition.” It seems that Liberty and Loyola Chicago escaped Jhaveri’s notice when she decided to write her article.
Wheaton College professor and dean Ed Stetzer ironically wrote an article for USA Today that was released the morning after Jhaveri’s article was written titled “No, Oral Roberts University Basketball Doesn’t Deserve To Be Canceled From NCAA Sweet 16.” Stetzer spoke out, saying, “This matters to me because what is happening to Oral Roberts University is coming to all of us who hold to such outdated ideas…I’d remind my fellow people of faith, nobody will get a pass on these issues if the dogma of new tolerance continues to take hold.”
Social Media Pushback
Although For the Win’s article has been shared over 80,000 times from its website, the post hasn’t been very well-received based comments from the site’s social media page. Some of the comments read:
“Leave them alone and let them play ball, don’t bring in all the outside nonsense for distraction. Probably won’t happen, but I hope they run the table and win the championship!”
“Wow- cancel culture at is best. FTW feeding the beast. Let these boys play ball. Keep politics out of it. Shame on you FTW. We live in a world of perceived tolerance- you expecting that they should accept LGBT; however tolerance is also accepting religious beliefs of others. You don’t have to like it, but accept that it is different than what you might believe. I believe in equal rights for all.. that being said, the Christian school has a right to their beliefs. We still have historically all black colleges for goodness sake. You can’t have it both ways. Tolerance is a 2 way street.”
“Good for ORU for standing up for their faith and defending God’s Word. I hope their team wins! GO team ORU!”
“This article is the epitome of bigotry and intolerance. I haven’t been following the tourney up to this point, but now I’m a huge fan of Oral Roberts U. Even if I don’t completely agree with them theologically, I hope they take it all!”
“Wow! USAToday should be embarrassed for letting this OPINION piece pass through. So people are actually offended that an evangelical Christian school is expecting their students to be….evangelical? Common sense is truly not that common.”