When reports surfaced of inappropriate questions being asked of incoming rookies at the Scouting Combine, the NFL responded. New York’s attorney general wants more.
According to CNN, Eric Schneiderman sent a letter to Commissioner Roger Goodell seeking a clear commitment that players won’t be subjected to discrimination based on sexual orientation.
“Equal protection under the law is an essential issue for employers, employees and prospective job applicants,” Schneiderman wrote. “For that reason, I ask that the league clarify its position by issuing a public statement that any form of discrimination or harassment on the basis of sexual orientation by league teams or their employees or agents against potential recruits or players constitutes a violation of state, local and, in some cases, contractual law, and will not be tolerated.”
Schneiderman is on the right track, but anyone can issue a strongly-worded statement containing comments that are fairly obvious. Real change will come only if, for example, the NFL discloses the results of the investigation into questions posed to Colorado tight end Nick Kasa (including “do you like girls?”), including any discipline imposed.
Beyond that, acceptance of gay players will occur only after the persons in positions of power with the teams, not the league, establish the appropriate tone. The owners, coaches, and General Managers need to say, unequivocally, that gay players are welcome on their teams, and that any discrimination or hostility in the workplace will not be tolerated.
Likewise, the NFL and the NFLPA should agree promptly to an expansion of the labor deal that permits significant punishment to be imposed on players who subject teammates known or suspected to be gay to physical or verbal intimidation or harassment.
If the NFL and its teams choose to make the creation of an appropriate atmosphere of acceptance a priority, the appropriate atmosphere will be created. Until that happens, the fact that no gay player has come out of the closet should surprise no one.