The NFL Scouting Combine is basically what you could consider the NFL’s yearly beauty pageant for prospective players to showcase themselves, so that various franchises can call them “winners” in their books. During the combine, players show their athletic ability in events like the 40-yard dash and also attempt to reflect their character and personalities to all 32 NFL teams through several interviews. However, controversy arose this season around events during the combine, and it had nothing to do with a player’s performance.
It’s no secret that the world of sports is behind on LGBT acceptance
News broke about a week ago that some of the questioning that occurred during private interviews was best described as inappropriate. Nick Kasa, a tight end from the University of Colorado, opened up to the media, stating that teams asked him questions like “Do you have a girlfriend?” or “Do you like girls?” in an attempt to find out his sexual orientation.
It’s no secret that the world of sports is far behind on LGBT acceptance within their ranks as I can’t think of a player in the NFL, NBA, MLB or NHL that is openly gay. The fact that representatives from NFL teams are now using sexual orientation as a variable to decide whether to draft a player further shows that major sports are socially behind.
It takes a fairly simple train of thought to understand a team’s logic behind this type of questioning, though. Owners are making investments on players worth millions of dollars and want maximum dividends from those risks. Drafting the first openly gay player would assuredly come with copious amounts of media attention and distractions for the whole team.
One could also argue that owners and general managers might want to protect the hypothetical gay player against highly homophobic teammates in the locker room. If a gay player joined a team and was constantly bullied and berated with insults, it could impact his playing performance and destroy his psyche.
To start things off, it’s both ethically and legally wrong to ask players about their orientation…
Despite this, I’m fervently against that train of thought. Arguments can be made towards any side of any debate, and no amount of points would make this line of questioning appropriate at all. To start things off, it’s both ethically and legally wrong to ask players about their orientation in most cases.
Making the decision to not sign a player based on their sexual orientation further fuels homophobic players’ hatefulness, essentially giving them the go ahead as the more important players in locker rooms whose views are valued more. It also just adds more merit to the fact that being gay in major sports is something that should be treated as an anomaly, when it should just be accepted by players and fans alike. The fact that some owners can look past criminal incidents in some players’ pasts but judge based on sexual orientation is a concern to me.
If the NFL, and major sports alike, want to be more in step with society, teams should make an effort to show that being a gay athlete doesn’t make anyone any less of a player. If owners are concerned about a gay presence in their locker room, they may as well just accept that, based on statistics, it’s likely that they already have gay players in their organizations.
I hope that this issue coming to light is able to shift the focus back on assessing athletes based on their athletic ability and moral construction, instead of their sexual preference.