Action: A notion comes out this past week that NFL executives want to know whether Manti Te’o is gay, raising the issue of whether players would accept an openly gay teammate.
Reaction: When will those in the NFL grow up to the point where they will not concern themselves with the sexual orientation of someone with whom they work or, in this case, play?
Is that reaction really too advanced or progressive for people in and out of the NFL? Is it too liberal a place for players on and fans of teams at which to arrive, regardless of their own sexual orientation or religious beliefs?
According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, the prospect of playing alongside a gay man is a “dilemma” facing those in the machismo world of the NFL. He said on the Dan Patrick Show on Monday:
“Here’s the elephant in the room for the teams and it shouldn’t matter but we have to step aside from the rest of reality and walk into the unique industry that is the NFL. Teams want to know whether Manti Te’o is gay. They just want to know. They want to know because in an NFL locker room, it’s a different world. It shouldn’t be that way. … I don’t think anyone knows how to solve this dilemma yet. It’s just that they want to know what they’re getting. They want to know what issues they may be dealing with down the road.”
OK, there’s a lot to consider there, including that Te’o has denied that he is gay. But let’s say there’s a player — or players — out there who is — who are — gay. What’s the problem with that? Would you have a problem with that? Why should what another man does in his bedroom cause a teammate concern?
Well … apparently, it does.
Before the Super Bowl, 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver was asked during a radio interview whether there were any gay players on his team. His now-infamous answer: “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. Can’t be with that sweet stuff. Nah, can’t be, in the locker room, man. Nah.”
Culliver later apologized for those remarks.
On Tuesday, former Bears quarterback Jim Miller told a Chicago radio station that openly gay players would be disruptive in the NFL.
“There are some religions that are just not going to accept a gay individual in a locker room,” he said. “So now, are you as an organization going to bring that element into your locker room and think everything is going to be OK?
“Last time I checked, whether it’s Christianity or Muslims or other religions that are out there, they’re just not going to accept it. They’re just not. It’s just not realistic for Mike Florio or any progressive or liberal to think that everything is going to be OK in the locker room and we should all just wise up and accept it.”
Miller said he personally “could care less” whether a player is gay: “You can play football or you can’t. I’m just giving you my point of view that certain factions of a locker room will not accept it. That’s the reality of the situation.”
That reality is what’s unacceptable.
Look, based on personal religious beliefs or perception of morality, some people are never going to condone or accept homosexuality for whatever reason. We all get that. But we’re talking football here. We’re talking about whether a player has the ability to play. Like Miller said, if he does, he should.
The idea that a player would be ostracized or rejected by teammates because of sexual orientation is immature and just plain ignorant. Not to put orientation in a comparative or negative light, but think of all the so-called religious players in the NFL who accept teammates, married or otherwise, who sleep with any number of women on a regular basis. From a morality standpoint, that’s doable, but accepting a gay teammate is not?
One’s personal beliefs, religious or otherwise, are fine — for oneself, not for everyone else. There’s no problem here with people living according to their own conscience, but there is a problem with people unable or unwilling to labor in their workplace, whether it’s sports or sales, business or basketball, finance or football, with colleagues who have a different foundation or orientation.
As for those who take issue with a gay man in the locker room because they think that man is checking them out or liable to hit on them, they shouldn’t flatter themselves with such an egocentric or paranoid line of thinking.
The focused machismo of the NFL should be limited to the field and shouldn’t include the kind of narrow-mindedness or singularity that still exists in the brains and hearts and locker rooms of those not enlightened enough to allow any man who can play the game to play it.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM and 960 AM The Zone.