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March 2, 2013

National Football League Is Investigating Improper Gay Questions At NFL Combine

NFL draft prospect Nick Kasa from University of Colorado

The National Football League (NFL) and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) is investigating the “impermissible questions” surrounding a college athlete’s sexuality, that were posed to some of the potential draft picks at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Indiana last weekend.

USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan wrote about the controversy, and reiterated that asking a potential draft pick whether he likes boys or girls is invasive and illegal.

Nick Kasa, a tight end from Colorado hoping to be drafted by the NFL this spring, went to the scouting combine the other day to get timed in the 40, jump vertically and horizontally, get in as many bench press reps as possible and be asked about his sexuality.
"They ask you like, 'Do you have a girlfriend? Are you married? Do you like girls?' Those kinds of things, and you know, it was just kind of weird," Kasa told ESPN Radio Denver, via ProFootballTalk, on Tuesday. "But they would ask you with a straight face, and it's a pretty weird experience altogether."
Pretty weird, indeed. Invasive and unacceptable also are adjectives that would apply. And there's one more word that works even better: Illegal.
What Kasa says happened at the NFL combine is not legal.
The NFL and the NFL Players Association don't always agree on issues big or small, but this time, they sure do, responding quickly Wednesday with statements saying this is not the way the league should be doing business.



In the NPR audio clip above, Audie Cornish talks with sportswriter Stefan Fatsis about the controversy around Manti Te'o and how other professional sports have reacted to gay players in the locker room.

The NFLPA has a collective bargaining agreement with the NFL that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and that agreement covers every team in the NFL. The questioning of anyone’s sexuality is off limits, and teams are obviously unaware of the policy.

The league and the players association also should keep a close eye on what happens to Kasa, 22, in the draft. He shouldn't be punished for talking about the questions he was asked. He should be praised for revealing – probably unwittingly, but revealing nonetheless – how backward and out of touch some NFL personnel apparently are at a time when nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized gay marriage, and when a majority of Americans are in favor of it, according to public opinion polls.
It’s great that the NFL and NFLPA are being proactive in educating the NFL teams that their questions are not permitted, but unless they address the underlying homophobia that was the catalyst for these questions, the NFL will remain a homophobic sport living in the dark ages.

Fox News sports columnist Jason Whitlock says the answer is simple:

It’s (Roger) Goodell’s job to protect the employees.
The best protection for the league and the players is the freeing of the gays.
Let’s be honest. I think it’s reasonable to assume that 15 percent of NFL players are gay and/or bisexual. Generally speaking, they’re forced to conceal their sexuality out of fear of being ostracized and potentially released from the team.
They need to be set free, released from the grip of the most hostile work environment in America. Is there a more homophobic work setting than a football locker room? I can’t think of one. 
There’s a terrific opportunity here for Goodell. He can make the NFL a zero-tolerance zone for homophobia. He can use the weight of his office and the power he wields because of the player-conduct policy to go after players and organizations that tolerate any form of sexuality discrimination. He could send a clear message the NFL commissioner is a friend to gays and will take every possible action to ensure they’re treated fairly. Goodell can create an environment that entices a closeted gay player to come out and be the hero/role model gay kids, parents of gay children and overgrown idiots need. 
Goodell, who has an openly gay brother, can be a real leader and carve out a legacy that rivals Pete Rozelle's. 
No active professional football, basketball or baseball player has come out of the closet because no commissioner or owner has had the courage to hand him the key to unlocking the door.
NBA Commissioner David Stern has a gay son, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has a gay brother. David Stern has been very proactive in policing the NBA for homophobia, with a zero tolerance policy for homophobic gay slurs. Roger Goodell should take a page out of David Stern’s book, and do the same thing in the NFL.

There are more than 2,000 players in the NFL, and with that many players, you know that there’s more than a few that are gay. Do them a favor, and set an example for the fans, and take Jason Whitlock’s advice. The NFL needs to enforce a zero-tolerance policy for homophobia. That way a gay professional football player won’t have to dream about experiencing equality in the workplace, he will be living it.   





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