NFL fans must have believed they were being treated to old interview footage and newspaper quotes last week. It turns out the news footage was from 2015, not 1960. Of course one can not be blamed for feeling that way with all of the ignorance being tossed around. The Supreme Court ruling on June 26 making gay marriage legal, somehow made some people’s lives turn upside down. Not to be outdone by any other billion-dollar-company beloved by fans around the world, the NFL’s showed progress off the field is overrated. It has become painfully clear that many players, coaches and executives still do not get it.
The National Football League is no stranger to same-sex marriage hate statements. Players and coaches alike have given controversial statements to the media, quickly going viral like recent comments by player Josh Robinson. For example, Chris Culliver in 2013 stated, “I don’t do the gay guys man, I don’t do that. No, we don’t got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do.” Chris Clemons, also in 2013 said, “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.”
Not to be left out, Garrison Hearst gave us this little nugget in 2012 saying, “Aww, hell no! I don’t want any faggots on my team. I know this might not be what people want to hear, but that’s a punk. I don’t want any faggots in this locker room.” Then, to close things out, an NFL Assistant, minutes after openly gay player, Michael Sam was drafted said, “I don’t think football is ready for it just yet. In the coming decade or two, it’s going to be acceptable, but at this point in time it’s still a man’s man game. To call somebody a gay slur is still so commonplace. It’d chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room.” These are all unfortunate but great examples of how some players, coaches and executives still do not get it.
Finally, 24-year-old Josh Robinson of the Minnesota Vikings wasted no time last Friday in sharing his frustration by saying, “Love is love? So what will we say when the 30-year-old loves YOUR 10-year-old. When the dad loves HIS 6-year-old. It’s different?? Yea okay!” Robinson continues, “The day one person makes that stand, some may support, but many will say that’s sick! That day I will say ‘hypocrites.” “When did we start defining a word by using that word? Smh. If you really want to know. Love is …” Robinson then quotes a bible verse.
It is possible Josh Robinson’s tweet is a product of the NFL environment. Still, making comments such as Josh Robinson’s in interviews or social media only furthers the ignorance of players, coaches and executives in a league that really do not get it. NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, himself no stranger to controversy, made this statement regarding gay players in the league, “I have such great respect for our players, I don’t think it will just be tolerated, I think it will be accepted. These are individuals who play in our league. We’re all different in some fashion, and we’re accepting of our differences. That’s what this is all about.” He continued, “To me, if it happens in the league, that’s a personal choice that someone would decide, but I know their teammates and teams, and I think the fans will all respond the right way.”
At face value Goodell said all the right things. From just a sample of players’ comments, his confidence in equality may be misguided or exaggerated. Jim Buzinski of Outsports.com told the New York Times that Goodell should speak out more on these issues saying, “Roger Goodell needs to stand up and say something about this. He has never uttered a word about having gay players in the NFL. There are gay players who are known by some people. It’s going to happen. We’re not going to be waiting seven years for it, like we’ve been waiting 70 years for it.”
Friday’s Supreme Court ruling, legalizing same-sex marriage in each state is a positive step for the LGBT community. Some players, coaches and executives will continue to prove their ignorance when speaking about same-sex marriage and its recent ruling. Maybe someday positive tweets from high-profile athletes will take center stage. Until then we are to left to believe that the NFL just does not get it.
Opinion By Richard T Riley
Outdoor Sports – Sports and Gay Athletes
CBSSports – Goodell on gay players in NFL: It will be accepted, not just tolerated
Bleacher Report – NFL Players’ Anti-Gay Comments Show a League in Need of Growth
Huffington Post – Chris Culliver, 49ers Cornerback, Says Gay Players Not Welcome On NFL Team
Mic – 7 Most Anti-Gay Athletes
Photo Courtesy of Matt McGee’s Flickr Page-Creative Commons License