More than 1,500 New Yorkers gathered today in Manhattan to mourn the death of a 32 year-old gay man, who was shot down on Friday just blocks away from the historic Stonewall Inn in an apparent act of anti-gay bias.
GLAAD, You Can Play, NY Atty Gen. Schneiderman calling on NFL to address LGBT issues immediately
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued a statement demanding that the NFL investigate whether teams asked prospects about their sexual orientation during the league's pre-draft scouting combine. In a letter to the NFL that was released to news organizations, Schneiderman said:
"We ask that the league immediately issue a statement that any form of discrimination or harassment on the basis of sexual orientation by league teams or players against potential recruits or players constitutes a violation of state, local and, in some cases, contractor law and will not be tolerated."
Last month, Colorado Tight End prospect Nick Kasa told ESPN Denver's CJ and Kreckman that he was asked during a scouting session if he had a girlfriend, and if he even "likes girls." Kasa suspected a different purpose than actually wondering about his own sexual orientation"
"I think the whole point of the week is to play with your mind to see if you stay focused and stay driven," he said. "There was a couple of questions by coaches … they try to catch you off guard or try to say something you wouldn’t normally say … to see if they can get a reaction. They’re trying to see how badly they can get in your mind."
Regardless of the intent, this action is illegal under New York state law. After this information came to light, NFL officials did issue a statement, saying that the league is investigating the line of questioning revealed by Kasa.
"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."
Attorney General Schneiderman, along with GLAAD and You Can Play, is now calling on the NFL not just to investigate and discpline, but to take immediate steps to ensure that no more harm comes to the league's LGBT fans, employees, and yes - current players.
"Even if this was just one ignorant employee on one team asking one prospect, the fact that anyone involved with the NFL would think this is acceptable proves how much education needs to be done, on LGBT issues and employment law" said GLAAD President Herndon Graddick. "The NFL agreed to meet with GLAAD and the You Can Play Project to speak about these issues, but that needs to be a priority. We are asking that this happen immediately, and we thank Attorney General Schneiderman for encouraging that to happen"
GLAAD and the You Can Play project were already slated to meet with league officials next month to discuss improving LGBT inclusion and awareness league-wide.
"We agree that the NFL can do more to help ensure LGBT equality in their sport, but we believe it is important to remember that this is like stopping a battleship moving at full speed. It requires hard work, an understanding of how the league operates, and patience, said You Can Play President and co-founder Patrick Burke. "The NFL is a massive organization, comprising thousands of employees working for 32 unique teams in hundreds of distinct roles. The NFL has been taking proactive measures for months, reaching out to us to help find ways to implement policies that are actually effective and not just window dressing. We remain hopeful that we can achieve with the NFL what we have already achieved with the NHL."
The NFL is home to some of the most prominent LGBT allies in all of sports, including Michael Irvin, Conor Barwin, Scott Fujita, and two of the most outspoken, Brendan Ayanbadejo and Chris Kluwe, both of whom will be guests at the GLAAD Media Awards on Saturday. The league has been very communicative with advocates for LGBT inclusion in sports, and invited both GLAAD and GLSEN to participate in its Diversity Symposium last year.
We thank Attorney General Schneiderman for making clear that action is required - not just to support the league's fans, employee and players - but also to obey the law. The challenges to promoting inclusion are different in every league and in every sport, and we are confident the NFL will continue to work with advocates and take concrete action to overcome those challenges.