It's not about the Husker coach's religion, Cyd Zeigler said Thursday.

The Stanford grad, sports fan and gay man would feel the same way if Ron Brown were waving a rainbow flag around Memorial Stadium every Saturday during football season.

"It's about what he has done with his religion."

Zeigler wrote a column that appeared on the Huffington Post website last week.

Headline: "Nebraska: Fire Assistant Coach Ron Brown."

Brown spoke at an Omaha City Council meeting on March 6, invoking the Bible and opposing a proposed law that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. He gave his address as 1 Memorial Stadium.

"I have an affinity for Nebraska," said Zeigler, who grew up in Massachusetts, lives in Los Angeles and followed the Big Red in its glory years.

"So it makes me sad."

Zeigler spent most of a week researching Brown before writing his piece. He read stories and watched two hours of video on YouTube, where Brown shared his religious viewpoint, often using Tom Osborne Field as a backdrop.

And he came to this conclusion: "There's no way a gay player on his team would feel comfortable expressing himself."

(It would defy all odds, added Zeigler, to think there have not been gay football players at Nebraska during Brown's 20-year tenure.)

Brown was chided -- publicly and privately -- by University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Harvey Perlman for not clearly separating his work from his personal beliefs at the council meeting, and the coach apologized.

Interviewed by the Journal Star two days later, Brown added this: "As a Christian, and as a citizen, I believe I have the responsibility to stand for what I believe in. I'm firm on my stance."

The running backs coach isn't shy about public expression of his Christian faith. He's written books, hosted a radio show, led the state's Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter.

He's mentored hundreds of youth and is leader of the ministry FreedMen Nebraska -- thousands of its members gathered Saturday in Lincoln.

It's called Freedom of Speech.

And it's protected.

But to Zeigler -- and hundreds who signed an online petition asking the university to let Brown go -- the coach crossed a line when he used his position as part of his platform.

"In his arguments, Brown suggested it is God's will to discriminate against gay people," Zeigler wrote, "even saying that those who voted to protect gay people would be held to 'great accountability' by God."

Brown is steadfast in his belief that the practice of homosexuality is a sin. His stated philosophy: Hate the sin, love the sinner. A view not shared by all Christians.

"His remedy for a gay person in the locker room would be to change them with the word of Christ," said Zeigler. "No coach should be allowed to create this kind of hostile environment for anyone he coaches."

Zeigler's piece was first published Wednesday on Outsports.com, a website he co-founded in 1999 to publicize the stories and plight of gay, lesbian and transgendered athletes.

"We started to talk about what nobody wanted to talk about."

The Omaha ordinance passed a week after Brown spoke. It adds gender identity and sexual orientation to the list of classes -- like race and religion and sex -- already protected from workplace and public accommodation discrimination.

Ron Brown is still employed. Husker players reported for spring drills two weeks ago.

And Friday, Zeigler wrote another story.

In it, he quoted a gay athlete: "When someone says a homophobic slur and you're in the closet, you have no grounds to say anything, so you take it. Not only do you take it, but you remember it in your head, and it compounds."

Reach Cindy Lange-Kubick at 402-473-7218 or clangekubick@journalstar.com.