For the third time in five years, an incoming rookie has disclosed that he was asked a question about his sexuality at the Scouting Combine. For the third time in five years, the NFL has publicly denounced that practice.
“A question such as that is completely inappropriate and wholly contrary to league workplace policies,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told PFT via email on Thursday morning. “The NFL and its clubs are committed to providing equal employment opportunities to all employees in a manner that is consistent with our commitment to diversity and inclusion, state and federal laws and the CBA. We are looking into the matter.”
It’s one thing to talk tough and to investigate; it’s another to take steps that will end this kind of conduct.
“The league annually reminds clubs of these workplace policies that prohibit personnel from seeking information concerning a player’s sexual orientation,” McCarthy said.
That’s good, but it’s clearly not enough. Two years ago, cornerback Eli Apple said the Falcons asked whether he likes men. Per McCarthy, the league required the team to undergo a training seminar at its facility with an NFL-approved counselor.
“I spoke to Dan Quinn and I actually spoke to the coach who was involved in this matter,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said in March 2016. “I think the Falcons, as an organization, and Dan Quinn as a head coach, and the coach who was involved, have all taken ownership of this issue, recognized the mistake that was made, have been very forthcoming and have taken the appropriate steps to educate everyone. The coach [Marquand Manuel] and I spent probably 20 minutes on the phone talking about his learning experiences, how he can use this for a positive step and I was impressed with the way he was handling it. The team has taken on training programs within the organization which I think are all very satisfactory. So I don’t see any further steps at the league level at this point.”
While that may have kept the Falcons from repeating the infraction, it’s not keeping other teams from doing the same thing. That’s likely because the consequences aren’t sufficient to deter teams from asking improper questions.
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith believes teams that ask questions like this should be banned from the next Scouting Combine. While it’s an extreme example of discipline, it would be a lot more effective at deterring this type of thing than a seminar and a talking-to from the Commissioner.
Clearly, that outcome isn’t keeping other teams from asking questions that no employer should be posing to any employee.