Over the weekend, it came to our attention via the Daily Kos that in the new contracts issued to players by the National Football League, anti-discrimination language aimed at protecting employees based on sexual orientation has been added. The info comes from the blog Wide Rights, about the intersection between the LGBT community and the world of sports.
The language from the 2006 Collective Bargaining Agreement Article VII, Player Security, reads :
Section 1. No Discrimination: There will be no discrimination in any form against any player by the Management Council, any Club or by the NFLPA because of race, religion, national origin or activity or lack of activity on behalf of the NFLPA.
The new language in the 2011 CBA, now moved to Article 49, reads:
Section 1. No Discrimination: There will be no discrimination in any form against any player by the Management Council, any Club or by the NFLPA because of race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or activity or lack of activity on behalf of the NFLPA.
Does this mean the first openly gay athlete in American men's team sports will come from the NFL? Not necessarily, of course.
But someday there will be an openly gay football player, and the NFL is taking steps now to protect him, whoever he may be. Pete Olson from Wide Rights has some thoughts on how that language may have ended up in the contracts. It could have been put there by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, one of the earliest and most vocal supporters of our friend Steve Buckley after he came out earlier this year. It could have been put there by Ted Olson and David Boies, the attorneys arguing against Proposition 8, who each represented a side of the labor disagreement that almost led to a shortened season this year. It could have been put there by Scott Fujita, another friend of GLAAD's and an outspoken supporter of the LGBT community, who is a team representative. Or it could have come from anyone else at the table looking around the sport - at Kraft, at Fujita, at Brendan Ayanbadejo, at former players like Michael Strahan, Michael Irvin and Esera Tualo - and looking at the pro-LGBT messages coming from other leagues, like the NBA and MLB - and recognizing that even if no players in the NFL need these protections today, it won't be long before someone does.
We are grateful to the NFL for telling the LGBT community that it is welcome in pro football and for taking this important and proactive step against discrimination.