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NFL Will Investigate Alleged Questions of Sexual Orientation at Combine

CHANTILLY, VA - MARCH 02:  NFL Senior VP of Public Relations Greg Aiello briefs the media after a meeting with NFL owners at a hotel  on March 2, 2011 in Chantilly, Virginia. The NFL owners are meeting in Chantilly to discuss negotiations with the players union about a collective bargaining agreement that expires March 3, at midnight.(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistFebruary 27, 2013

The NFL made it very clear on Wednesday afternoon that teams shouldn't be asking about a player's sexual orientation in interviews at the NFL Scouting Combine.

After Colorado tight end Nick Kasa told ESPN Radio Denver he was asked by an NFL team, "Do you have a girlfriend?  Are you married?  Do you like girls?" (via Pro Football Talk), the topic quickly made the rounds across various media outlets.

One question was at the forefront: Legally, NFL teams shouldn't be inquiring about an NFL player's marriage status or sexual orientation, right?

The NFL addressed that question on Wednesday afternoon (via Mike Garafolo of USA Today):

"Like all employers, our teams are expected to follow applicable federal, state and local employment laws. It is league policy to neither consider nor inquire about sexual orientation in the hiring process," league spokesman Greg Aiello wrote in an email to USA TODAY Sports. "In addition, there are specific protections in our collective bargaining agreement with the players that prohibit discrimination against any player, including on the basis of sexual orientation.

"We will look into the report on the questioning of Nick Kasa at the scouting combine. Any team or employee that inquires about impermissible subjects or makes an employment decision based on such factors is subject to league discipline."

This is an appropriate and swift response from Aiello, and it's nice to see the league establish in no uncertain terms that this line of questioning has no place in the NFL. 

There has been a lot of conversation over this issue in part because Katie Couric specifically asked Manti Te'o if he was gay in the wake of the Ronaiah Tuiasosopo hoax. 

This once again initiated the conversation of whether or not homosexual individuals would be welcomed in NFL locker rooms, and once again raised the question of whether there is a homophobic culture that accompanies professional sports in America.

Obviously, if NFL teams are finding creative ways to ask players if they are gay, they are doing so because they worry that having a gay individual on their team might cause some sort of distraction. It's a shame that's even a consideration, but it clearly is for teams. 

At some point, a player in the NFL will come out about his sexuality, and the NFL culture will have to adjust. Perhaps the strong statement from Aiello will be the first step for that process.

It's certainly long overdue.

 

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