Cal State Fullerton and two local community colleges withdrew support Thursday from a sports foundation that bars women from its annual banquet.
The action followed an announcement Wednesday that UC Irvine will not take part in the Orange County Sports Celebrities Foundation’s Sportsman of the Year banquet, planned for next Tuesday. Officials of the state schools said California law prohibits the use of public funds for activities or organizations that discriminate against women or minorities.
“We will not be participating,” Cal State President Jewel Plummer Cobb said Thursday. Cal State officials had used $200 from the Titan Athletic Booster Foundation to buy two tickets to the $100-a-plate affair. Cobb said she did not know if a refund would be requested.
‘Sensitive to Discrimination’
Athletic department officials who planned to attend “really did not know anything was wrong,” Cobb said. “We are very sensitive to discrimination, and we certainly do not knowingly ever (discriminate).”
Alfred P. Fernandez, chancellor of the Coast Community College District, ordered officials of two district schools, Orange Coast and Golden West colleges, not to use school funds to purchase tickets for the stag dinner, Vice Chancellor Gene Farrell confirmed Thursday. “It is inappropriate and illegal for us to use any public funds for an event that excludes women,” Farrell said. “No school funds will be used.”
Sport Celebrities, founded in 1971 by Newport Beach businessman and former professional football player Paul Salata, stages an annual fund-raising banquet and distributes a portion of the profits to nine local universities and community colleges.
$45,000 Worth of Tickets
The organization, which has awarded college grants of $1,250 to $2,000 per school in recent years, has sold about $45,000 worth of tickets for the upcoming dinner.
The Times reported Tuesday that the organization has not filed financial disclosure statements since 1980, and, as a result, was stripped of its tax-exempt status by state and federal officials in 1984. Foundation treasurer Marcus Woods, who had said he planned to file the necessary reports and seek retroactive reinstatement of charitable status this week, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Salata said Thursday that despite the withdrawal of several colleges, he will not open Tuesday’s dinner or future banquets to women. In an interview last week, he described the dinner as “a boys’ night out,” and said such men-only fund-raisers draw more people and therefore bring in more cash than unrestricted events.
“I wouldn’t go along with changing it,” Salata said Thursday when asked if he would lift the ban on women. “Not as long as I’m involved.”
Three banquet tickets reserved by OCC officials but not yet paid for will be bought by a coach with his own money, not by the school or the college’s athletic foundation, according to Doug Bennett, executive director of the Orange Coast Foundation. Golden West athletic director Tom Hermstad could not be reached for comment.
UCI Chancellor Jack W. Peltason said Wednesday that the $1,000 worth of tickets purchased by the school’s athletic foundation would be considered a donation to the Sports Celebrities’ scholarship fund. Chapman College, a private university in Orange, purchased 10 tickets to the dinner with funds from its athletic foundation. Chapman officials could not be reached for comment Thursday.
State laws “prohibit using state funds for programs that discriminate,” said Marian Johnston, California deputy attorney general and supervisor of the agency’s civil rights unit. Pat Towner, executive director of the state Commission on the Status of Women, said the federal Civil Rights Restoration Act also bars such discrimination by any organization that accepts federal funds.
“If a university gets federal funds, and they all do, they are not allowed to discriminate,” Towner said. “It doesn’t matter if the department or foundation involved in discrimination gets federal funds. If the university as a whole gets federal money, there can be no discrimination or participation in discriminatory activities.”