Sunday, January 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL team's sexuality question out of bounds

Sometimes the questions are benign: Do you prefer Big Macs or Whoppers?

Sometimes they are a little kinky, such as when one NFL team asked Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy if he wore a jock strap or a G-string when he played.

Former Bucs coach Jon Gruden once told a quarterback to get under a chair and read off a play-call. Former Largo High star and Chiefs receiver Dexter McCluster was asked to sing.

The questions that come up during the interview process at the NFL scouting combine range from goofy to provocative, but now we have a few more words to describe one question at this year's combine:

Inappropriate. Improper. Rude.

And most of all: wrong.

University of Colorado tight end Nick Kasa said in a radio interview that one team (he wouldn't reveal which one) asked him if he was married or had a girlfriend. Then this team crossed the line. Kasa said he was asked if he likes girls, which seems like a not-so-subtle way of asking what the team really wanted to know:

Are you gay?

The Kasa story follows weeks of speculation about Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, whose sexual orientation has been questioned since the bizarre story surfaced that he had a girlfriend who did not exist. Katie Couric even asked Te'o if he was gay in their interview on her talk show.

It's okay for her to ask. It's not okay for a potential employer to ask.

Other players at this year's combine are saying they were asked the same question, leaving me with these three things that popped into my head:

The NFL remains homophobic

Merely asking someone if he "likes girls" suggests that though the NFL as an entity would love to welcome gay players, individual teams are not ready.

There's a reason no active NFL player has ever announced he is gay. And it has nothing to do with the reaction he might get from fans.

The general public has shown not only acceptance but support of openly gay people in the public arena. We've seen actors, singers, talk-show hosts and even athletes in other sports who not only are liked but popular enough to have endorsement deals. It's not the fans who would have a problem with a gay player. It's other players.

Would there be media scrutiny of a gay player? Absolutely. Would some fans heckle that player? There are always a few knuckleheads. Would that player be a distraction for his team? Maybe for a while.

Eventually the story would die down, just like every big story does. Then all that would be left is a homosexual player and his heterosexual teammates. Though most players likely would accept a gay teammate, is there any doubt a few would have an issue playing alongside and showering and dressing next to someone who is gay?

That's what it comes down to: a handful of homophobic players on each team that scares clubs away from employing someone they know is gay.

(By the way, I can't imagine anything more insulting to a gay athlete than suggesting he would not be able to control himself in the workplace and would be helpless to keep from making advances on a teammate. For crying out loud, give people more credit than that.)

It might be legal to ask, but it's wrong

Here's something you might not know: It is not illegal in Florida for a potential employer to ask a job candidate about his or her sexual orientation. In many states a potential employer can't ask a woman if she is pregnant or if someone goes to church, but it is allowed to ask an applicant if he or she is gay.

Federal law leaves the matter up to individual states, and only 13 of the 32 NFL franchises are prohibited by their state's laws from asking about sexual orientation. (To note, someone in any state can file a discrimination suit if they believe they were denied a job because of their sexual orientation.)

Though it is not illegal in some states to ask if someone is gay, it certainly is wrong, even if the question is just to gauge that person's reaction.

Teams might argue they are investing millions in players and need to know everything they can about them. But having a relationship with a man does not affect a player's football abilities any more or less than having a relationship with a woman would. You can see why a team might question a player with a history of legal troubles about them because that player's inability to stay out of trouble could affect his availability. But how does being gay affect one's ability to throw, run, jump, tackle, block or simply show up on Sunday?

The league must take a stronger stance

The NFL has no policy on what teams can ask in combine interviews, though it did release a statement this year saying, "Any team or employee that inquires about impermissible subjects or makes an employment decision based on such factors is subject to league discipline."

But this shouldn't be just about punishment. It needs to be about understanding.

The league needs to be more proactive. It needs to meet with players, it needs to meet with teams, it needs to meet with rookies. It needs to teach tolerance and respect. Most of all, it needs to find out which teams ask if players are gay and then learn specifically why those teams felt the need to ask such a question.

Then, perhaps someday, no one will ask a young man if he likes girls because no one will care.

 
Comments
Shrine Game journal: USF players’ thoughts are with grieving QB Quinton Flowers

Shrine Game journal: USF players’ thoughts are with grieving QB Quinton Flowers

ST. PETERSBURG — USF had expected to have four former players in Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field, but QB Quinton Flowers had to miss the showcase game after learning that his grandmother had died late last week."I most definitely ...
Published: 01/20/18
Late score gives West victory over East in Shrine Game

Late score gives West victory over East in Shrine Game

ST. PETERSBURG — With less than a week to install a playbook, offenses can have it tough in college showcase games.And for 58 minutes on Saturday in the East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field, the teams combined for just one offensive touchdown.But...
Published: 01/20/18

Sunday’s NFL conference championship game previews

AFC: Jaguars at Patriots, 3, CBSLine/OU: Patriots by 7½; 46The big drama leading into this game is whether, or how much, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will be slowed by his injured right hand, which kept him out of practice Thursday (see 6C for more...
Published: 01/20/18

NFL playoffs schedule

AFCCONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPJaguars at Patriots, 3 p.m. today TV: CBS Line/OU: Patriots by 7½; 46NFCCONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPVikings at Eagles, 6:40 tonight TV: Fox Line/OU: Vikings by 3; 38½Super Bowl LIIJaguars or Patriots vs. Vikings or Eagles, 6:30 p...
Published: 01/20/18
NFL Playoffs: Reconsidering the franchise quarterback imperative

NFL Playoffs: Reconsidering the franchise quarterback imperative

TAMPA — So much for needing a franchise quarterback to reach the Super Bowl.Sure, the Patriots Tom Brady is back in his seventh straight conference championship game and his 12th overall. But check out the other schlubs under center SundayIt's ...
Published: 01/19/18
Happy 15th anniversary to the greatest play in Bucs history: Ronde Barber shuts down the Vet

Happy 15th anniversary to the greatest play in Bucs history: Ronde Barber shuts down the Vet

Fifteen years ago today, cornerback Ronde Barber made what's considered the greatest play in Bucs  history, returning an interception of Eagles' quarterback Donovan McNabb 92-yards for a game-clinching touchdown in a 27-10 win in the NFC Championship...
Published: 01/19/18
Jameis Winston shares MLK’s message: Don’t lose infinite hope

Jameis Winston shares MLK’s message: Don’t lose infinite hope

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston, only weeks removed from a disappointing 2017 season, had a relevant but larger message for teenagers on Friday morning: Don't let small setbacks keep you from your dreams."If you have a phone, if you have a pen and pa...
Published: 01/19/18
Greatest moment in Tampa Bay sports history happened 15 years ago today

Greatest moment in Tampa Bay sports history happened 15 years ago today

Happy Friday, Tampa Bay.Fifteen years ago today, Ronde Barber intercepted Donovan McNabb to shut down Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium and send the Bucs to the Super Bowl. Times columnist Tom Jones and many others consider this the greatest moment in ...
Published: 01/19/18
Rick and Tom podcast: Super Bowl berths on the line

Rick and Tom podcast: Super Bowl berths on the line

In their latest podcast, Rick Stroud and Tom Jones look back at last week’s playoff games to break down the upcoming conference championship games.Rick and Tom agree that New England should roll over Jacksonville but disagree on Minnesota-Philadelphi...
Published: 01/19/18
Rick and Tom podcast: What does it mean when Bucs GM cringes at expectations?

Rick and Tom podcast: What does it mean when Bucs GM cringes at expectations?

Bucs general manager Jason Licht told Rick Stroud that he cringed at some of the preseason expectations last season, and the outrage from some fans has been more than he expected.In their latest podcast, Rick Stroud and Tom Jones break down what it a...
Published: 01/18/18