At this year's scouting combine -- the annual gathering of football recruits to determine how well they could potentially play on an NFL field -- teams reportedly asked players about their sexuality. The NFL launched an investigation into the matter, and we haven't heard from them since. Until now. The initial answers might be a little disappointing. The questions about sexuality posed to some players are being attributed to banter, or "chatter that was inappropriate," and were not part of the formal interview process, the NFL's human resources chief Robert Gulliver told The New York Times' Judy Battista. But that mean some teams could face fines for casually asking the questions anyway, he said. The investigation is still ongoing. But, to be frank, chalking it up to inappropriate chatter and telling the Times is likely a P.R. move telling us to limit expectations. In other words: don't hold your breath.
But the league is moving forward to -- at least sort of -- address the problem of acceptance at the executive level. The league will discuss hiring practices with team officials at annual meetings this week, and a diversity session is being held with team owners. But the most promising move the NFL is making -- the one that could bring some change -- is meeting with six gay community groups next month to go over league policies to "seek input on improvements," Battista reports. Whether or not those meetings bring any real change to league policy will be the barometer by which the league is measured. Hopefully the mere fact they had a little chat with some gay dudes and gals isn't enough.
The question of acceptance in NFL locker rooms exploded right before the Super Bowl when San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver said he wouldn't accept a gay teammate. After it seemed to open a dialogue about gay rights in the NFL, the league suffered another setback when some of Culliver's 49er teammates made more unseemly comments about acceptance in the locker room.
And then the combine happened, and the NFL had a full scale Big Gay Problem on its hands. It started with a single report about coaches and general managers wondering about Manti Te'o's sexuality. It was the "elephant in the room," during his interviews with team executives, NBC's Mike Florio reported. "Teams want to know whether Manti Te'o is gay. They just want to know. They want to know because in an NFL locker room, it's a different world. It shouldn't be that way," he wrote. This would mean teams thought he lied to Katie Couric when she asked the same question. There, Te'o replied with an emphatic no. (Perhaps too emphatic?) This led to a firestorm of criticism for the league. At that point, the sexuality problem was limited to Florio's anonymous reporting. So things really heated up when University of Colorado tight end Nick Kasa told an ESPN radio station teams were outright asking if he was gay. Kasa was asked, "Do you like girls?" he told ESPN Radio Denver's CJ & Kreckman. Then things hit the fan. Questions were raised over the legality of the question -- teams aren't allowed to discriminate against sexual orientation according to new revisions to the league's collective bargaining agreement.
Until we hear about the league's meetings with the gay community, NFL players will continue to make the administration look bad by championing the gay rights cause on a very public platform. The Baltimore Ravens' Brendon Ayanbadejo and the Minnesota Vikings' Chris Kluwe — the two most outspoken players in the league on the issue of gay rights — are pressuring the Supreme Court to legalize gay marriage with support from 212 Capitol Hill politicians and one former U.F.C. champion. The league office still has not taken a public stance on gay rights -- in the locker room, or elsewhere.