LANHAM, Md. (CBSDC) — In all likelihood, the NFL will have the first openly gay player in its 94-year history when the season kicks off in September.
Missouri All-American defensive end Michael Sam proudly announced that he was an “openly, proud gay man” over the weekend.
Sam’s declaration is the crescendo to a groundswell of speculation that has been building for decades.
Most recently, a rumor circulated that a group of players would step forward together and announce they were gay prior to the start of last season. However, such an announcement never materialized.
Former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, who is straight, has threatened to sue his former team over claims he ostracized coaches for openly supporting rights for same-sex couples.
But the alleged excommunication of Kluwe and potential bullying of Sam should not be allowed occur, according to the NFL.
“Discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation is not consistent with our values and is unacceptable in the NFL,” said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
The current Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and players union also forbids discrimination.
“There will be no discrimination in any form against any player by the NFL, the Management Council, any Club or by the NFLPA because of race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or activity or lack of activity on behalf of the NFLPA,” a clause in the CBA reads.
In addition, the NFL has implemented strict policies regarding discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The following policies were sent to all club presidents, coaches and general managers in April 2013. The guidelines where then made available to all players and staff.
The standards set for the interview and hiring process will come into play during the upcoming NFL Scouting Combine.
“Coaches, General Managers and others responsible for interviewing and hiring draft-eligible players and free agents must not seek information concerning or make personnel decisions based on a player’s sexual orientation. This includes asking questions during an interview that suggest that the player’s sexual orientation will be a factor in the decision to draft or sign him,” the policy states.
The handout cited “do you like women or men?” as a specific example of a question that is forbidden from being asked during the interview process.
The policy is likely to be amended in wake of Sam’s announcement. The tolerance and acceptance programs showcased at the annual Rookie Symposium for incoming NFL players is also likely to be updated.
“[The NFL] is always updating and improving our policies and programs,” league spokesperson Greg Aiello said.
What Is Harassment?
The policy distributed to players and staff says harassment can include:
- Unwelcome connect where a player is touched, pinched, kissed, hugged, or deliberately bumped up against by another player.
- Any jokes, comments or pranks regarding sexual orientation.
- Demeaning or hostile comments that include use of offensive and degrading words and phrases.
- Pornographic and suggestive literature and language posted on bulletin boards in the locker room or inside a players locker.
The NFL says players and staff can report discrimination to the players union, coaches, team human resources managers, or NFL security representatives. A good faith effort will be made to ensure confidentially of the person making the report.