Are NFL hopefuls being vetted for their sexuality?

The Player's Association has called for an investigation into interview practices at the NFL combine

Topics: NFL, Sports, Homophobia, Chris kluwe, ,

Are NFL hopefuls being vetted for their sexuality? (Credit: AP/Joe Raymond)

Colorado tight end Nick Kasa’s claim that he was asked by scouts if he’s straight has inspired calls from the Player’s Association for the league to investigate whether or not players are being asked about their sexuality during the NFL scouting combine.

“They ask you like, ‘Do you have a girlfriend? Are you married? Do you like girls?’” Kasa said in an interview with ESPN Radio Denver. “Those kinds of things, and you know it was just kind of weird. But they would ask you with a straight face, and it’s a pretty weird experience altogether.”

The NFL combine is week-long showcase where college football players perform physical and mental tests in front of coaches, general managers, and scouts. Basically, it’s a week-long job interview.

“I know that the NFL agrees that these types of questions violate the law, our CBA and player rights,” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said in a statement to USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday. “I hope that they will seek out information as to what teams have engaged in this type of discrimination and we should then discuss appropriate discipline.”

Jeff Foster, the National Football Scouting president who runs the combine, said no one has reported any inappropriate questions during their interview sessions, but league spokesman Greg Aiello signaled in an email statement that the NFL would comply with any investigation:

“Like all employers, our teams are expected to follow applicable federal, state and local employment laws. It is league policy to neither consider nor inquire about sexual orientation in the hiring process. In addition, there are specific protections in our collective bargaining agreement with the players that prohibit discrimination against any player, including on the basis of sexual orientation.”

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Following accusations that Manti Te’o and Kasa were questioned about their sexuality, and San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver’s anti-gay remarks, many critics have begun to condemn the league for what they believe is its homophobic culture. There are currently no out football players in the NFL. And according to a report by Dan Wetzel, of the more than 10,000 players in major college football, none are publicly out. Since it is statistically improbable that there are no gay men playing football at any professional level, critics say one has to look to the league culture for answers.

One way to remedy it? Make like Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe and send a clear message  – from the top — that anti-gay bigotry is unacceptable in the NFL — and anywhere. The NFLPA’s investigation into combine questions about a player’s sexuality will be one step toward that goal.

 

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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