The NFL is behind the times.
NFL teams filled 15 head coach and general manager positions over the last few months, none of which were filled by minorities.
The NFL created the Rooney Rule in 2003, which required teams to interview ethnic minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operations jobs. But this round of hires has stripped it of its meaning.
Then, during Super Bowl week, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver said he wouldn’t want an openly gay player on his team. Culliver told comedian Artie Lange, “I don’t do the gay guys, man,” and “[gay guys] can’t be in the locker room, man,” according to Yahoo Sports.
Could the NFL accept an openly gay player? There is not a single openly gay player in any of the four main professional sports — football, baseball, basketball or hockey.
It is unacceptable for one of the biggest institutions in America — one that millions of fans follow daily — to discriminate against homosexuals and minorities.
More and more institutions are accepting homosexuality. Recently, the Boy Scouts have considered leaving the decision to admit openly gay scouts to individual troops. In the November election, voters in three states legalized gay marriage. Both Britain and France have legalized or begun to legalize gay marriage in the last month.
And yet players such as Culliver say homosexuals should not be in NFL locker rooms.
In the locker room, Football coach Jarvis Gibson said he does not tolerate teasing and ridicule, but he can’t patrol the players every second.
The NFL needs to begin to accept homosexuals. It’s only a matter of time until a team drafts one. When that happens, players will need to accept him.
“As long as they don’t do anything to make someone feel uncomfortable, there wouldn’t be a problem,” senior quarterback Jimmy Pope said.
The NFL, along with its players, coaches and management needs to step up and stop this bigotry. The NFL has no harassment policy but needs to create one. The Rooney Rule needs revision, and the locker room’s atmosphere needs changing.
The NFL should mandate that teams fill a certain percentage of management and coaching positions with qualified minority candidates and that they must interview at least two minority candidates for open positions.
No longer can players tease each other in the locker room. Heavy fines should ensue for harassment and coaches, and the league needs to be more vigilant to help players who have trouble coping with the environment.
Given the NFL’s prevalence in society, its acceptance of minorities and homosexuals can teach millions of others to be accepting and tolerant.
A version of this story appeared in print on 20 February 2013, on page 13 of The Shakerite.