By Dara Sharif
As the NFL gears up for tonight’s draft, word comes that the league has agreed to do more to protect gay players.
In a deal brokered by the New York State attorney general, the NFL will conduct year-round seminars for players, recruits and employees involved with hiring that detail the league’s antidiscrimination policies.
Memos and fliers will outline what constitutes harassment and what to do if someone believes they’ve been harassed. The NFL will hang in all locker rooms fliers that promote the NFL’s values regarding “diversity and inclusion.” It will also be made clear that the policies protect any prospective players and employees.
“Discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation is not consistent with our values and is unacceptable in the National Football League,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, adding that the league has “a long history of valuing diversity and inclusion.”
The NFL’s meetings with the attorney general’s office were voluntary and informal, and were not punitive or a result of any pending charges.
The talks came about after the NFL Combine in February when three prospective players told reporters that unnamed NFL officials had asked them whether they liked girls.
The NFL found no violations to its longstanding antidiscrimination policies. However, more clarity about the policies and enforcement thereof was desired.
But will the move be enough to create a culture of inclusiveness that would support what would truly be historic: an openly gay man in the nation’s most macho sport?
Last month, CBS Sports reported that a current gay NFL player is seriously considering coming out within the next few months. With there being no openly gay players in any of the major sports, advocates say he would be the Jackie Robinson of the LGBTQ community.
But in addition to fears of a backlash from his fellow players, an openly gay athlete may have as much to fear from fans themselves—much as Robinson did 50 years ago when he became the first Black player to formally integrate Major League Baseball.