Players like Chris Culliver and Chris Clemons are giving the NFL a bad name.
Both the San Francisco 49ers cornerback and Seattle Seahawks defensive end made offensive comments when presented with the idea of having a homosexual teammate.
Yahoo! Sports reported Culliver’s comments from the week leading up to Super Bowl XLVII:
I don’t do the gay guys, man. I don’t do that. Got no gay people on the team. They gotta get up outta here if they do. Can’t be with that sweet stuff…Can’t be…in the locker room, nah. You’ve gotta come out 10 years later after that.
Chris Clemons made a similar close-minded statement—though somewhat less offensive—comment in the last week. Clemons’ comment also appeared on Yahoo! Sports, with him saying “Who on God’s earth is this person saying he’s coming out of the closet in the NFL? I’m not against anyone but I think it’s a selfish act.”
Even if Clemons was simply saying that the news might distract a team's focus, it is ridiculous to characterize someone's life decision to be open about their sexual preference as "selfish."
The San Francisco 49ers were quick to distance themselves from Culliver’s comments, claiming in another Yahoo! Sports article that “there is no place for discrimination within our organization at any level. We have and always will proudly support the LGBT community.”
San Francisco is one of the most forward-thinking cities in the nation, known for electing the first openly gay public official Harvey Milk. Not issuing a statement against Culliver’s comments would have been extremely foolish considering the 49ers’ location.
Unfortunately, the Seattle Seahawks were not as quick or considerate with their reaction.
NBC Sports reported a series of events after the comments by Clemons, in which a Seahawks spokesperson initially said “We’re not going to comment. You know, it’s just his personal view.”
“We haven’t gotten that many fan comments so we are not going to make public comment.”
Well, at least these NFL franchises showed their hand. The only reason to decry anti-gay comments is if the fans don’t like them.
Take note, National Football League. A recent CNN poll showed that 53 percent of Americans support gay marriage. With the recent activity in the Supreme Court debating the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8, the zeitgeist in America is clearly changing.
Even if it wasn’t though, why wouldn’t the NFL take a more firm stance against bigotry?
Culliver and Clemons are only indicative of a larger problem in our country. People with sexual orientations that differ from the “norm” are discriminated against and verbally abused. The “It Gets Better” campaign was created to encourage LGBT youth who are harassed and might be considering suicide.
Football is only a sport. This issue transcends football.
The happiness and health of many American citizens are at stake, and professional athletes are constantly in the media. When NFL players use the spotlight for negative comments, it encourages discrimination.
They should be using their publicity for good, the way Baltimore Raven Brendon Ayanbadejo is. His public support for equality is expressed in this Huffington Post article.
The NBA had several media debacles on this very issue a few years back. LA Weekly reported Kobe Bryant’s anti-gay slur in 2011.
Rather than merely issuing a slap on the wrist, which is what the NFL gave Chris Culliver, the NBA went out of their way to create an ad attempting to combat the problem (see YouTube video).
The NFL should follow the NBA’s lead on this one. Hateful remarks are being thrown around by professional athletes, and young people will emulate those athletes. The NFL should be proactive about the issue; they could begin another campaign similar to the Play-60 campaign.
The time is now. Segregation was eliminated in sports, and homophobic bigotry needs to be next to go.
The NFL should take heed of a quote from many signs at recent pro-gay rallies: “Don’t be on the wrong side of history again.”
*Disclaimer: These opinions are my own, and the views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Bleacher Report as a whole.