They’re the four major sports leagues: Major League Baseball, the NFL, the NBA and the NHL. They are home to the elite of the elite in professional sports, and over the years the leagues have also become historical entities that have served as catalysts for social and economic change. Jack Roosevelt “Jackie” Robinson, the first African American to play Major League Baseball, is a prime example, though there are many others.
But at no time — not in the more than 140 years of Major League Baseball, the more than 90 years of the NHL and NFL, the nearly 70 years of the NBA — has an openly gay player been counted among their ranks. And it appears that no one is in a great hurry for that to change. Here’s what NBC analyst Mike Florio had to say last week about the hesitation among some NFL teams to draft Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o following his “fake girlfriend” scandal:
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 inside the unique industry that is the NFL. Teams want to know whether or not Manti Te’o is gay.
And that “concern” doesn’t seem to be limited to Manti Te’o. University of Colorado punter and potential draft pick Nick Kasa described his interview process with NFL teams:
They ask you, like, “Do you have a girlfriend?” or “Are you married? Do you like girls?” … Those kind of things, which is kind of weird.
“Weird” and potentially a violation of a bunch of workplace and hiring laws, which the NFL says it’s currently investigating.
For more on this story, watch Current TV tonight at 6E/3P and join the discussion with Michael Shure and Harry Edwards, professor emeritus of sociology, UC Berkeley. Edwards has been at the forefront of sports and civil rights for decades. In 1967, Edwards organized the Olympic Project for Human Rights, which culminated with U.S. medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their fists in a “human rights salute” during the national anthem at the 1968 Olympics. Edwards has also been a consultant for teams in the NFL, the NBA and Major League Baseball.