It lookalike the NFL has done it again, only this time it’s not a player making homophobic comments (I’m not naming them here because their smack-talk doesn’t deserve any more air time than it’s gotten already), it’s the NFL Combine as part of the recruiting efforts. This time, the guys at the combine found it necessary to not only ask questions about his marital status that are against federal hiring rules, but for good measure, the decided to add to Colorado’s Nick Kasa’s list of questions, “do you like girls?” (Italics are mine).
It’s amazing to me, especially in 2013, that anyone — and the NFL, no less — finds it necessary to ask such questions. In the case of the NFL, it really makes me scratch my head. Here are a bunch of guys who’ve played the anything-but-tame game off football for years, often since their pee-wee days. They’ve often dedicated their lives to a physically grueling, and one could say violent, game. To get to the NFL, they’ve proven their ability, their willingness to take physical pain, and their love of the game. With whom they share their live and love is hardly relevant, and this has been clearer and clearer over the last few years as former — and a few current — players have come out as gay; I don’t think I’ve heard any of their teammates say anything to tie their playing to their sexual orientation. Because it doesn’t matter.
Lately, however, the murmurings that, apparently, it does matter to the NFL. One of the most eloquently outspoken players in the league, Brandon Ayabadejo, was part of a group interview with Ed Schultz recently that shed some light on players staying in the closet to protect their draft stock. If this as the case and is as pervasive as it appears, it would certainly seems that the behavior of the NFL during Kasa’s combine is less of an exception yo the rule than the NFL would like us to know.
I’d love to know what they’re afraid of: loss of ticket sales; ad revenues; a drop in quality recruits? Why is that we seem to hear less of an uproar from the NFL when players are accused of rape, convicted or are imprisoned for animal cruelty, instead of being touted as heroes or great second-chance stories? In a game that’s been plagued by cheating and accusations of (coordinated) team violence, not to mention being plagued by the problems of debilitating head injuries, it seems that, instead of focusing on who might be sleeping with whom, they should be focusing again on recruiting talented players who have good work ethics, are good sports and team players, and just, in a more general way, will be good role models — because that’s inevitably how young fans see them.
I suppose, however, that to see that happen, we’d have to be able to ensure that the NCAA, colleges and their football teams view the game that way, and as we’ve seen recently at Penn State, football is so (disproportionately) revered and supported that that’s not lays the case. I hope, though, that at the very least college recruiting questions are more closely monitored through school’s EOE policies, so that questions like “do you like girls” are off the table. Unlike in the NFL.