NFL Players’ Anti-Gay Comments Show a League in Need of Growth

Players like Chris Culliver and Chris Clemons are giving the NFL a bad name.

Both the San Francisco 49ers cornerback and Seattle Seahawks defensive end made offensive comments when presented with the idea of having a homosexual teammate.

Yahoo! Sports reported (http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nfl-shutdown-corner/chris-culliver-undergo-sensitivity-training-crisis-youth-anti-192113920–nfl.html) Culliver’s comments from the week leading up Super Bowl XLVII:

I don’t do the gay guys, man. I don’t do that. Got no gay people on the team. They gotta get up outta here if they do. Can’t be with that sweet stuff … Can’t be … in the locker room, nah. You’ve gotta come out 10 years later after that.

Chris Clemons made a similar close-minded, though somewhat less offensive, comment in the last week. Clemons’ comment also appeared on Yahoo! Sports (http://sports.yahoo.com/news/nfl–clemons–stance-on-gay-teammate-ill-conceived-223553611.html), with him saying “Who on God’s earth is this person saying he’s coming out of the closet in the NFL? I’m not against anyone but I think it’s a selfish act.”

The San Francisco 49ers were quick to distance themselves from Culliver’s comments, claiming in another Yahoo! Sports article (http://sports.yahoo.com/news/nfl–report–niners-cb-says-openly-gay-players-would-not-be-welcomed-on-the-team-190346715.html) that “there is no place for discrimination within our organization at any level. We have and always will proudly support the LGBT community.”

San Francisco is one of the most forward-thinking cities in the nation, known for electing the first openly gay public official Harvey Milk. Not issuing a statement against Culliver’s comments would have been extremely foolish considering the 49ers’ location.

Unfortunately, the Seattle Seahawks were not as quick or considerate with their reaction. NBC Sports reported (http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/04/02/seahawks-sidestep-clemons-comments-about-gay-players/) a series of events after the comments by Clemons, in which a Seahawks spokesperson initially said “We’re not going to comment. You know, it’s just his personal view.”

Their rationale?

“We haven’t gotten that many fan comments so we are not going to make public comment.”

Oh.

Well, at least these NFL franchises showed their hand. The only reason to decry anti-gay comments is if the fans don’t like them.

Take note, National Football League. A recent CNN poll (http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2013/03/25/cnn-poll-rob-portman-effect-fuels-support-for-same-sex-marriage/) showed that 53 percent of Americans support gay marriage. With the recent activity in the Supreme Court debating the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8, the zeitgeist in America is clearly changing.

Even if it wasn’t though, why wouldn’t the NFL take a more firm stance against bigotry?

Culliver and Clemons are only indicative of a larger problem in our country. People with sexual orientations that differ from the “norm” are discriminated against and verbally abused. The “It Gets Better” campaign (http://www.itgetsbetter.org/) was created to encourage LGBT youth who are harassed and might be considering suicide.

Football is only a sport. This issue transcends football.

The happiness and health of many American citizens are at stake, and professional athletes are constantly in the media. When NFL players use the spotlight for negative comments, it encourages discrimination. They should be using their publicity for good, the way Baltimore Raven Brendon Ayanbadejo is. His public support for equality is expressed in this Huffington Post article (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/06/brendon-ayanbadejo-gay-rights-usa-today_n_2631729.html).

The NBA had several media debacles on this very issue a few years back. LA Weekly reported Kobe Bryant’s anti-gay slur (http://blogs.laweekly.com/informer/2011/04/video_kobe_bryant_throws_towel.php) in 2011.

Rather than a slap on the wrist, which is what the NFL gave Chris Culliver, the NBA went out of their way to create an ad attempting to combat the problem (seen here on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8D_XLCmY0D8).

The NFL should follow the NBA’s lead on this one. Hateful remarks are being thrown around by professional athletes, and young people will emulate those athletes. The NFL should be proactive about the issue; they could begin another campaign similar to the Play-60 campaign (http://www.nfl.com/play60).

The time is now. Segregation was eliminated in sports, and homophobic bigotry needs to be next to go.

To quote many signs at recent pro-gay rallies, “Don’t be on the wrong side of history again.”

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Sports Thought of the Day

Kentucky was upset in the first round of the NIT by Robert Morris. While this has been a crazy year for upsets, it has less to do with parity in the NCAA and more to do with Kentucky being awful. They didn’t deserve to make the NCAA tournament, with 10+ point losses to Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas, Georgia, and Vanderbilt. That would be pathetic even if I didn’t mention how abysmal the SEC was this year (3 tournament bids). What this reveals is how risky it is to mostly recruit one-and-done players. If you compare Kentucky and UNC, both perennial powerhouses, the difference between their down seasons is stark. UNC is an 8 seed in the tourney, while Kentucky took an early NIT exit. While UK did win a national championship with their formula, expect teams with veteran leadership to be more consistent contenders.

Sports Thought of the Day

The Miami Heat now own the second-longest winning streak in NBA history. The reason? A complete team. Outside of LeBron, Wade, and Bosh, they have players like Chalmers, Battier, Allen, Cole, and Haslem. Battier had the key block on Jeff Green to seal the victory. You can’t overstate the importance of such players. The only team with a longer streak, the 71-72 Lakers, had some guys to go with Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, and Gail Goodrich. Jim McMillian and Happy Hairston both averaged over 10 ppg, while the over-the-hill Elgin Baylor chipped in occasionally. It’s a team sport…just ask the 2013 Lakers.