The NFL’s investigation regarding questions posed during Scouting Combine interviews regarding whether the recruits “like girls” concluded that those questions weren’t actually part of the interview.
The next team(s) that ask those questions may not be quite as lucky.
The league has issued a one-page set of guidelines regarding sexual orientation, under the heading of the league’s “ongoing commitment to excellence in workplace conduct.” The document explains that teams “must not seek information concerning or make personnel decisions based on a player’s sexual orientation.” (The recovering lawyer in me is compelled to point out that the words “known or perceived” should have been added to the end.)
Along these lines, teams can’t ask questions such as: “Do you like women or men? How well do you do with the ladies? Do you have a girlfriend?”
Some teams would say that those questions are asked in order to determine the player’s commitment level to football, and whether he simply is playing the game to get money and, in turn, “the ladies.” But the league is taking the smart position on questions of this nature, since it can be cover for determining whether a player is or could be gay, a factor that in close cases could (in theory) prompt the team to pick a different player. If a team is concerned that a player may be a poseur Casanova who wants to play in the NFL simply to enhance his ability to attract “the ladies,” they’ll have to find other ways to get to the truth.
The rest of the document contains the typical lawyer-driven CYA language (yeah, I used to write stuff like this all the time, and I don’t miss it at all) that will likely go in one ear and out the other of most players, coaches, and scouts. The sheet ultimately will be meaningless without some sort of interactive training program aimed at showing the players, coaches, and scouts real-life examples in a way that engages the intended audience.
The question for the NFL isn’t whether a team is willing to embrace a gay player; we think most if not all are. The question is whether a team is willing to embrace the potential distractions that would come from a gay player becoming the first gay player to come out during his career. The first time it happens, it will be a major distraction, as the media descends with Super Bowl week intensity on team headquarters to get a quote from anyone and everyone about the situation.