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The NFL is coming under scrutiny after a player was asked uncomfortable questions, including whether he was gay, during interviews at the NFL Scouting Combine last week.
The Combine, held annually, serves as a chance for NFL teams to get a handle on prospective recruits’ abilities so they can decide whether to draft a particular player, and, if so, in what round.
“It was pretty crazy. Some people are really trying to get in your head and test your reaction,” Guice said on SiriusXM NFL Radio on Wednesday. “…I go in one room, and team will ask me do I like men, just to see my reaction. I go in another room, they’ll try to bring up one of my family members or something and tell me, ‘Hey, I heard your mom sells herself. How do you feel about that?'”
The NFL has said it will be investigating the matter.
“A question such as that is completely inappropriate and wholly contrary to league workplace policies,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told NFL.com. “The NFL and its clubs are committed to providing equal employment opportunities to all employees in a manner that is consistent with our commitment to diversity and inclusion, state and federal laws and the [Collective Bargaining Agreement].
“The league annually reminds clubs of these workplace policies that prohibit personnel from seeking information concerning a player’s sexual orientation,” McCarthy added.
This isn’t the first time that players have been asked about their sexual orientation, or other questions that might be deemed offensive. Two years ago, the Atlanta Falcons’ secondary coach, Marquand Manuel, asked Eli Apple, who was eventually drafted by the New York Giants, during the combine if “he liked men.” In 2010, Jeff Ireland, the then-general manager of the Miami Dolphins, asked current Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant if his mother was ever a prostitute during a pre-draft visit.
When former NFL player Michael Sam came out just prior to the draft, many assistant coaches and staff anonymously told media outlets that they were concerned about the distraction that an openly gay player could pose for an NFL team. They worried that the media would harp on an openly gay player’s sexuality, when the focus of the team’s media briefings should be on football-related matters.
The coaches also expressed concerns about the homophobia of other NFL players, who might be uncomfortable to sharing intimate spaces with gay athletes, as ESPN highlighted in a 2014 report focusing on Sam’s showering habits.
Openly gay former NFL cornerback Wade Davis, who played for the Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans, and Washington Redskins, has been critical of reports that such questions are being asked at the Combine.
Davis, now the director of professional sports outreach for the You Can Play Project, told TMZ Sports that he’s in talks with the NFL about holding a clinic for coaches and staff on LGBTQ issues and homophobia.
He has said he wants to encourage teams to make an effort to be more inclusive of LGBTQ players, and wants to focus on explaining why asking players about their sexuality is inappropriate.
Davis said he wants coaches and staff to “understand the physical, emotional and spiritual cost to creating a hostile environment for gay male athletes.”
The Human Rights Campaign blasted the NFL for allowing a question about a person’s sexuality to be asked as if it was a prerequisite. The organization also pointed to the incident as an example of the type of discrimination that LGBTQ people can face. HRC says that’s why Congress should pass the Equality Act, which would prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
“The fact that Derrius Guice was asked by an NFL team — and a prospective employer — about his sexual orientation is absurd and inappropriate,” Ashland Johnson, HRC’s director of public education and research, said in a statement.
“With similar incidents already reported, it’s clear that the NFL did not do enough to prevent it from happening again,” Johnson added. “The NFL should take serious actions that address these unacceptable incidents and the perpetuation of an unwelcoming anti-LGBTQ environment, including publicly supporting the Equality Act.”
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