Sunday, June 17, 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
Bucs journal: O.J. Howard poised to take off?

Bucs journal: O.J. Howard poised to take off?

TAMPA — There's always a lot of attention on the rookie class this time of year, rightfully so. There's a reason the Bucs focused on defense, and DT Vita Vea, CBs M.J. Stewart, Carlton Davis and S Justin Whitehead all look like they could have ...
Published: 06/16/18
Ex-Buc Kellen Winslow pleads not guilty to kidnapping, rape charges

Ex-Buc Kellen Winslow pleads not guilty to kidnapping, rape charges

Times wiresVISTA, Calif. – Former Bucs and Hurricanes tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. was jailed without bail Friday after pleading not guilty to nine counts of kidnapping, rape and other charges.If convicted on all counts, Winslow, 34, could face...
Published: 06/15/18
Bucs still don’t know when Jameis Winston will throw another pass that matters

Bucs still don’t know when Jameis Winston will throw another pass that matters

TAMPA — The last pass thrown by Jameis Winston in a regular-season game was his best. The perfectly arced, 39-yard strike to Chris Godwin for a touchdown with nine seconds left gave the Bucs a 31-24 win over New Orleans at Raymond James Stadium...
Published: 06/15/18
Bucs busy on next Ray-Jay renovation with East Stadium Club

Bucs busy on next Ray-Jay renovation with East Stadium Club

The first Bucs home game of the 2018 season is still three months off, but the franchise is busy getting Raymond James Stadium ready with the fourth phase of its $160 million renovation, highlighted by a new East Stadium Club.Construction continues t...
Published: 06/15/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Gerald McCoy sounds off

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Gerald McCoy sounds off

The Bucs wrap up minicamp as Gerald McCoy sounds off on the team getting help for him, defensive line coach Brentson Buckner yelling at the veteran defensive tackle and advice for the young players who now have five weeks off before training camp.Plu...
Published: 06/15/18
Gerald McCoy: ‘Stop saying Gerald got help. No, the Bucs got help’

Gerald McCoy: ‘Stop saying Gerald got help. No, the Bucs got help’

TAMPA — On the last day of minicamp, DT Gerald McCoy made it clear that the new additions to the defensive line are what the entire team needed, not just himself."It's not about me. It's about the team," McCoy said of the addition of five new l...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18
Bucs hit summer break with optimism, eager for training camp

Bucs hit summer break with optimism, eager for training camp

TAMPA — This week's three-day minicamp was the final push in the Bucs' offseason, with about six weeks now until the team reconvenes in late July for training camp and the real preamble to the 2018 season.So what, if anything, can be gleaned fr...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18
Maybe 2018 is the year the Bucs take that step forward

Maybe 2018 is the year the Bucs take that step forward

TAMPA — The Bucs wrapped up a three-day minicamp on Thursday.“I’m going on vacation,’’ Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said.The next time we see the Bucs will be in five weeks. Just around the corner. That’s when, official...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18
Ex-Buc Kellen Winslow arrested on suspicion of rape, kidnapping

Ex-Buc Kellen Winslow arrested on suspicion of rape, kidnapping

Times wiresSAN DIEGO – Former Bucs and Hurricanes tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. was arrested Thursday on suspicion of multiple sex-crimes-related charges, including two counts of rape, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department said.The departmen...
Published: 06/14/18
Sealed and delivered: Bucs RB Ronald Jones signs rookie contract

Sealed and delivered: Bucs RB Ronald Jones signs rookie contract

The Bucs' 2018 draft class is now all in the fold, with running back Ronald Jones, second-rounder from USC, signing his rookie deal Thursday.Jones, who won't turn 21 until August after the Bucs go to training camp, was the last of Tampa Bay's eight d...
Published: 06/14/18