Friday, March 01, 2013

Gay openess is creeping up on the NFL

I never thought I'd see this. The hyper-gendered world of the National Football League has tied itself in knots trying to navigate the legal maze that is the employment rights (if any) of gay athletes.

Colorado tight end Nick Kasa, unintentionally, started one part of the fuss by telling a radio interviewer that some team had asked him: "Do you like girls?" According to sportswriter Judy Batista:
Kasa said the question came as part of a series of queries about whether he was married or had a girlfriend. On Wednesday, he said in another radio appearance that he did not think the question was serious, although he said it was asked after he said he was not married and did not have a girlfriend.

Questions about family relationships are not unusual during the scouting process, but the N.F.L. has had to deal with inappropriate questions before, as teams try to uncover anything they can about players before the draft. During a predraft visit in 2010, Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland asked receiver Dez Bryant if his mother was a prostitute. Ireland later apologized.
Oops. These guys may be treated as high priced beef, but they do have some rights. How many is a little bit unclear.

"Yahoo!Expert" Martin Rogers thinks what may be asked depends on the location of the team asking, hence the interesting list at the left.

Meanwhile, it's not only Kasa whose intimate connections (or lack of them) have led to questions. The much more well-known subject of sexual orientation speculation before next month's draft is Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o. The celebrated Mormon Samoan was caught up in a bizarre hoax involving a non-existent internet "girl friend." This one left fans -- and teams -- not knowing what to think. And the teams who might pick up the rights to his services want to know. But, according to Colorlines, they've discovered there is an obstacle.
... the NFL does have safeguards against this kind of scrutiny, it just appears that teams aren’t following them. Buried deep within the NFL’s most recent collective bargaining agreement is a non-discrimination clause that reads: “There will be no discrimination in any form against any player by the NFL, the Management Council, any Club or by the [National Football League Player’s Association] because of the race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or activity or lack of activity on behalf of the NFLPA.”
For this spectator and football fan, it's kind of a hoot to learn that what is probably just unconsidered boilerplate from hundreds of union contracts slipped into this one. Nobody really thought the issue would come up. Not in the NFL! But the world is learning gays might be anywhere.

Meanwhile, one of the NFL's loudest champions of gay rights, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo has predicted we'll see an openly gay football player by 2015. But he wouldn't encourage any prospect to come out before the draft:
He said if an NFL prospect doesn't like girls, the best thing for that player to do when asked about it is lie to improve their draft stock.

"Selfishly, I think players need to say that they're straight right now," Ayanbadejo said. "You need to get drafted as high as you can get drafted, get the money while you can, your career's only going to last 3.5 years."
I'm not sure what this says about the trust between labor and teams in the football league. Not something good I think. Interesting to watch the issue of a gay player become one of the many tension points in the employee/employer relationship. I enjoy watching football but between the growing awareness of the health risks and the ongoing sense of exploitation among the beef, I suspect the game has trouble ahead.

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