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Matt Birk: Someone’s sexuality doesn’t come into play at work

Matt Birk AP

Former Vikings and Ravens center Matt Birk wrote an op-ed opposing expanding the legal definition of marriage for the Minneapolis Star Tribune in 2012, which made him an obvious call for comment in the wake of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam’s announcement that he’s gay.

Birk, who now works as an appeals officer jointly appointed by the league and the NFLPA, said Monday that his opposition to gay marriage has nothing to do with his feelings about having teammates who are gay. Birk estimated that he played with 10-12 teammates who were homosexual and whose orientation was known to the team and emphasized that he feels the only issue that really matters in the locker room is football.

“There is a difference between trying to talk about what marriage is and what my feelings are toward individuals. There are actually many people that are close to me that are gay,” Birk said, via Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com. “But in the end, the issue is someone’s sexuality: Does it really ever come into play at work? I don’t think so.”

“I know there are stereotypes about football players and what the locker room is like and all that,” Birk continued. “Some of those stereotypes, sometimes we’re our own worst enemies. We take advantage of all the perks of the locker room. Sometimes that means you act like a teenager. But when push comes to shove, when you’re talking about something like this, this serious issue and monumental of an issue, I really think football players will answer the bell.”

Birk said he thinks most players “are going to be concerned about going to work, doing their jobs and keeping their jobs” and that football will be the focus after a couple of days of questions for Sam’s future teammates and coaches. It’s a popular point of view around the league with Bears General Manager Phil Emery, Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Giants owner John Mara and Steve Tisch joining other executives around the league in saying that Sam’s ability to help a team win will be the deciding factor in his professional future.

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39 Responses to “Matt Birk: Someone’s sexuality doesn’t come into play at work”
  1. daysend564 says: Feb 10, 2014 3:22 PM

    Doesn’t come in to play at work…when you work in places where people don’t bleed on you.

  2. thepftpoet says: Feb 10, 2014 3:23 PM

    Matt Birk is 100% correct.

    The media is blowing this way out of proportion.

    No one needs to know about your personal life, it’s football not a Reality TV show.

  3. rodvmunchiii says: Feb 10, 2014 3:25 PM

    Does it come into play when your workplace is filled with a lot of in-shape men walking around nude? I have zero issue with gay players, but will all this tolerance extend to the first guy who is uncomfortable showering with a gay man? Will special accommodations be made or will anyone that says anything even close to being perceived as negative be crucified by the media?

  4. thestrategyexpert says: Feb 10, 2014 3:32 PM

    As long as Matt Birk is correct and that sexuality in the workplace is never an issue, then this should be smooth sailing. I guess “sexual harassment” and “sexual discrimination” must be myths huh? Who invented those terms anyhow, was it the same people who made up Santa Claus? Do tell us more Mr. Birk, this is rather insightful.

  5. bwayblueshirt says: Feb 10, 2014 3:36 PM

    Ah yes, the oft-used “it’s okay, I have gay friends” excuse.

  6. The Great Ted Thompson the Genius says: Feb 10, 2014 3:37 PM

    The reason this is all going to blow up in some team’s face is because of the media, not the team’s reaction to Michael Sam. The media will be on that team like you’ve never seen before, doing everything they can to drum up controversy. They’re going to ask every player on the team every question they can think of to get a soundbite that sounds like someone isn’t 100% accepting of the gay lifestyle, then they’ll run to Sam to get his reaction to the comment. If the media would just leave everyone alone, everyone would be able to get along fine.

  7. redmanalishi says: Feb 10, 2014 3:39 PM

    Riiiiiiiight… Doesn’t matter at all. Neither does gender or race. Being different has never caused anyone to be treated differently in the workplace.

    Now just be sure to keep your mouth shut about your sexuality, which is totally okay, whatever it is, as long as you pretend to be straight so that we don’t have any differences to disrupt out workplace.

    This message has been brought to you by the NFLPA’s anti-gay marriage spokesperson.

  8. taosravenfan says: Feb 10, 2014 3:41 PM

    Well said Matt Birk.

  9. rajbais says: Feb 10, 2014 3:42 PM

    I’m happy to hear Matt Birk acknowledge this.

    I think that people have to realize that gay men can play. If those reluctantly keeping it secret can play so can the openly and there’s nothing wrong with that.

  10. steelerdynasty2010 says: Feb 10, 2014 3:42 PM

    if he’s trying to suggest that the media is going to make this a bigger issue than it actually is, we need to just realize that he’s a crazy conspiracy theorist, discount his opinion, and move on….the nerve of some people

  11. mark0226 says: Feb 10, 2014 3:45 PM

    I agree with comments above. The main difference in the NFL and other work places is that I don’t shower with my coworkers.

  12. fwippel says: Feb 10, 2014 3:46 PM

    Birk’s comments are the smartest commentary I’ve seen yet on this on this entire subject for the entire time its been in the media.

    Thanks Matt.

  13. wearewhowethoughtwewere says: Feb 10, 2014 3:47 PM

    Sexuality doesn’t come into play at work?

    So does that mean, that no one has EVER discussed their girlfriend, their wife, their fiancee, or just some chick they met on Match.com, in the normal day-to-day convos at the job?

    Of course they have. So why shouldn’t it be different for a gay dude?

  14. dalcow4 says: Feb 10, 2014 3:58 PM

    “Someone’s sexuality doesn’t come into play at work”

    Of course it does. Humans aren’t robots. Every person’s sexual orientation, beliefs, politics, religion, etc etc comes into play wherever they are and whatever they do.

    The question is–how much does it come into play for any particular job?

    Seems to me that football is one job where it come into play quite a bit.

    The next question is one certain people don’t want to hear– Can businesses hire whom they want? Or will they be forced to hire this type of person or that type of person?

  15. purpleguy says: Feb 10, 2014 3:58 PM

    The question is how many present NFL players will be as mature about the issue as Birk?

  16. deltaoracle says: Feb 10, 2014 4:06 PM

    Of course businesses will hire the person they want, just as they always have. All they have to do is say something nice about the person they didn’t hire, and talk up what their buddy’s relative “brings to the table.”

  17. rodvmunchiii says: Feb 10, 2014 4:08 PM

    Amazing I bring up the fact that not everyone might be 100% on board being nude and showering with a gay man and that’s gets thumbed down. The intolerance of those pushing the gay agenda is stunning. This is what other don’t like about you people. If someone isn’t comfortable showering and being nude around a gay guy they shouldn’t be vilified, yet that will absolutely happen. This doesn’t mean that someone that is gay shouldn’t be allowed to play or anything like that, but tolerance should also be shown towards those that don’t have the same opinion as yourself. If no one in the locker room cares, which might absolutely be the case, then great! However those that might not be comfortable with the situation shouldn’t be bullied into silence by the media and peer pressure.

  18. leftlaneisforpassingonly says: Feb 10, 2014 4:12 PM

    Everybody’s so worried about the shower thing. How many of you worry about at your fitness center?

  19. taosravenfan says: Feb 10, 2014 4:12 PM

    The real question is not whether it comes into play, but whether it negatively effects the locker room. My suspicion is that for the large majority it won’t matter. For a smaller minority, they will need to get used to it.

  20. freeigwebuike says: Feb 10, 2014 4:14 PM

    Love it. Blame the media. Like everything is the media’s fault.

  21. thegreatgabbert says: Feb 10, 2014 4:17 PM

    Mike is fine as long as there is only one openly gay player in the league. But if someone else comes out, the possibility of a marriage rears it’s ugly head.

  22. itsunclepauley says: Feb 10, 2014 4:30 PM

    Nothing would help this situation more than if one of the several (many?) closeted gay current players also came out. Right now.

  23. gudy2shoes says: Feb 10, 2014 4:33 PM

    (Matt Birk) “Its OK if I’m a bigot, I got some gay friends”.

  24. fwippel says: Feb 10, 2014 4:39 PM

    For those who insist that sexuality comes into play at work, I think you’re missing Birk’s point.

    As a traditionalist, I agree with Birk’s take on marriage, but that doesn’t mean I get upset with people at work who think differently than I do. I am not at work to debate traditional marriage versus gay marriage.

    As a professional, I am able to put any personal differences I have with co-workers aside and work with them to accomplish the goals of my employer.

    That’s all Birk is saying, he’s right.

  25. drock36 says: Feb 10, 2014 4:45 PM

    Then why do so many players not want a gay teammate? Still, caveman mentality exists in most locker rooms.

  26. ingloriousmaster says: Feb 10, 2014 4:45 PM

    If it doesn’t matter at work then why does Birk care enough about another person’s sexuality to pen a letter defending the traditional definition of marriage? How does gay marriage impact Birk or anyone for that matter if they themselves are not the one’s getting married? Plus…the majority of NFL players are the last humans on earth who should be defending marriage of any type. This is America, do what makes you happy!

    This coming from a very straight man (why do we always need to add this adendum, lol?)

  27. knew8411 says: Feb 10, 2014 4:47 PM

    Ya know…..most people dont really care one way or another about the sexual orientation of co-workers.
    It seems to me that the only ppl who want to make an issue out of it are the gays.
    Why do we have to keep disecting these sort of issues?

  28. usmutts says: Feb 10, 2014 4:48 PM

    Birk, by his own words, is a bigot and a hypocrite. It’s hypocritical to say you have nothing against a gay person while at the same time denying him the right to do what you have the right to do – marry the person you love.

  29. danoj14 says: Feb 10, 2014 5:01 PM

    And why do we care what Birk has to say on this issue? Seems he made his stance pretty clear last year…

  30. steelcurtainn says: Feb 10, 2014 5:09 PM

    I wonder if Matt Birk was one of the 10-12 teammates he’s talking about.

  31. favrewillplay4ever says: Feb 10, 2014 5:20 PM

    I’m with Birk 10000000 percent! Eloquent, educated, TOLERANT OF OTHERS BELIEFS, but won’t let others bring him down because he won’t conform to their beliefs.

  32. mediasloppy says: Feb 10, 2014 5:43 PM

    If you’re tired of this subject move on. No one is forcing you to read and reply on all these posts since the news broke. You’re actually feeding the media machine you are complaining about….

  33. brazzz01 says: Feb 10, 2014 5:46 PM

    If Sam is drafted and based on performance doesn’t make the team…will his team be accused of cutting him for reasons other than that?

    #hmmm
    #goodluck

  34. csbanter says: Feb 10, 2014 6:20 PM

    Football will go on, for the Sam supporters please dont antagonize those that disagree with it and vice versa.

  35. filthymcnasty1 says: Feb 10, 2014 6:58 PM

    Matt Birk was only able to get a ring after he left MN.

  36. thegreatgabbert says: Feb 10, 2014 7:48 PM

    However it does come into work at play.

  37. defscottyb says: Feb 11, 2014 5:10 AM

    Birk is correct… who cares, just do your job.

  38. myfairbrady says: Feb 11, 2014 12:20 PM

    Here is what I have realized – NFL fans are trying to be “big boys” by all the thumbs downing of the pro gay comments. Guess what – it’s the world we live in. If you don’t like it, get out…we won’t miss you. Religion is the reason we are in this mess, yet you continue to believe it’s a good thing…nice try

  39. zacharyvento says: Feb 11, 2014 1:23 PM

    This showering argument is ludicrous. Gay men are not these predators who can’t control themselves around nudity. Despite what you may think, gay’s are not attracted to every single person of the same sex in the world. By Birk’s estimation he played with 10-12 gay players, yet we never heard of one locker room sexual assault in all his years in the league. There are plenty of straight women reporting from NFL locker rooms every week yet they never seem to have an issue with sexually harrassing players. Flip the script, if you, a straight male were in a locker room full of women, would you not be able to act appropoately?

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