Sports department for the student run radio station 90.3 WRST at UW-Oshkosh
It seems the discussion of whether or not there are any gay players in the NFL has reached a breaking point, and it’s about time for it all to come to a stop.
This all seemed to really take flight when it was revealed that Manti Te’o, a Heismen Trophy finalist this season and starting linebacker for Notre Dame (who did play in the BCS Championship game, by the way) really never had a girlfriend named Lennay Kekua, or at least she never existed. Te’o was apparently the victim of a “Catfish” scandal, one in which he claims that he “met” Kekua online, and that they fell in love without ever meeting in person. Te’o was apparently devastated to find out about her death from Leukemia this season, and claims that he played for her all season long, and the media didn’t take long to just right on it.
After it was revealed via a Deadspin report that Kekua never existed, the Twittersphere blew up looking for answers. Millions cried for Te’o’s head, while others rushed to his defense. It seemed everyone had a side they were on right from the start no matter what evidence came out. After a man by the name of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo came forward admitting that he was the “mastermind” behind the hoax, all sorts of questions began to fly. In his first public appearance since the scandal broke, Tuiasosopo admitted that he fell in love with Te’o, and that’s why he kept the hoax going all that time.
That’s when the story began to boil over. Was Te’o in on it? Was he really in love with Tuiasosopo, and just too ashamed to admit it? Or was did Te’o really think it was a woman he was in love with instead of another man? When asked whether or not he was gay by Katie Couric on her show, in his first interview on camera since the scandal became public, Te’o nervously replied, “No. Far from it… Far from it.”
In reality, Te’o’s response should have been something more along the lines of “I really don’t think that’s anyone’s business but my own.”
It shouldn’t matter whether or not Te’o is gay, straight, bisexual, or anything else. However, the sad truth is that in today’s day and age, it does matter if an NFL player is gay or not, and that could mean the difference between millions of dollars for Te’o and other players around the league.
It came to light in the NFL when two players who had very opposing views on the topic of gay players in their league. Chris Culliver, who players for the San Francisco 49ers, spoke out against the idea of gays in the league, saying “No, we don’t got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do.” Culliver went on to say “Can’t be with that sweet stuff. Nah.. can’t be… in the locker room man. Nah.” He went on to say that if a player were gay in the NFL, he should keep his secret throughout his playing days and at least 10 YEARS after his playing days were over.
On the other side was Brendon Ayanbanedjo, who has been an open proponent of marriage equality since the beginning of his playing days, and has used his recent fame as linebacker for the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. Ayanbadejo said “I hear it all the time. I head it every day. And it’s not just in the locker rooms. It’s on my Twitter. It’s on my Facebook… I’m not surprised, but that’s why I speak so loudly about this.” He went on to say “In the words of Martin Luther King, ‘You can’t fight hate with hate. You have to fight hate with love.’
Now the situation has escalated even further, with news coming out from multiple players at the NFL Combine this past week that executives from multiple teams have been asking players, Manti Te’o included, about their sexual orientation in part of the questioning process of the combine, as if that was a major stipulation as to whether that player would continue to be on a certain team’s radar screen or not.
“Yeah, yeah there were questions like that,” said Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell. “There were definitely a couple weird questions.” And he wasn’t the only one.
Players as high profile as Michigan’s quarterback Denard Robinson have said the same thing about questions they were asked by NFL teams, and it seems like the questions were more than just curiosity coming from the executives.
On The Dan Patrick Show Monday afternoon, editor of Profootballtalk.com Mike Florio said “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.” He went on to say “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.”
So this is where the NFL has come to. Teams questioning the sexual orientation of players so that they can avoid “problems” that may arise in the future? This is as far as the homophobia in the NFL has gone, and this is as far as it needs to go. It’s time for the NFL not only to ban questions of that sort that would discriminate against players who actually are gay, but Roger Goodell and the rest of the league need to embrace homosexuality in it’s sport, or it could prove to be fatal for the sport.
Actions need to be taken right away to make sure no more discrimination is allowed in the National Football League. For starters, they can ban any type of question that has to do with a player’s sexual orientation. Beyond that, they can start to team up with national projects that welcome gay people into their community, such as the It Gets Better Project, or the You Can Play Project.
It Gets Better is a project that has already had celebrities speak out for it, such as Stephen Colbert, Tom Hanks, and even President Barack Obama. It’s main purpose is to tell gay teens and youth that while the bullying and suffering may be bad at the moment, their lives will get better, and that despite the horrors they have to face every day, they can go on to live great and fulfilling lives.
The You Can Play Project is designed specifically towards sports, telling kids that their sexual orientation doesn’t matter in whatever sport it is that they want to play. Whether players are gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, or anything else, their motto is “If you can play, you can play.”
What would the NFL do today if one of their most famed players came out and admitted that he was tired of living a life of lies, and he too was a homosexual? Would the team get rid of him because they wouldn’t want any “distractions” to come of it? Would they embrace him for the way that he is no matter what? Or would they simply say that it doesn’t matter, that as long as he can play he will always have a spot on their roster.
It’s time for the NFL to do the right thing, and begin embracing the culture of gay athletes being allowed to play in their league. Ray Rice isn’t going to be cut from the Ravens or be discriminated against because he is black. Ray Lewis didn’t get cut for giving all his glory and praise to God throughout his career. So why should players have to hide who they really are on the inside, just because the league doesn’t want “issues” to arise from homophobia in the locker rooms? It’s about time we saw some change in the NFL, and it’s better to happen sooner rather than later.
World of Sports
It’s becoming a more and more normal thing in the world of professional sports, taking a pay cut to help your team better it’s chances of winning a championship. LeBron James took one when he went from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Miami Heat, and most recently Tom Brady decided to re-structure his current contract to give him three more years and more guaranteed money, but cleared up more cap space so that the team could better itself now. Drew Brees, quarterback of the New Orleans Saints, recently said that he would be willing to do “anything” in order to help his team clear up their salary cap issues, even if it meant restructuring his current deal.
Now, Packers TE Jermichael Finley told ESPN on Wednesday that he wouldn’t be willing to take a pay cut at all, having said “I’d have to walk for sure, meaning I couldn’t take a pay cut.” Finley is due a $3 million roster bonus on March 27th, and if the team traded or released him they would save $8.25 million.
LeBron James took a lot of flack for taking a pay cut to go join a better team, however Finley seems to be getting just as much flack saying he won’t take a pay cut and the team would have to release or trade him first. So, what do you think? Do you like players restructuring deals that would allow their teams to get better, or do you think contracts are contracts and need to be honored no matter what?
Alex Crowe, Assistant Sports Director at WRST