The NFL Appears Totally Ready For An Openly Gay Player, So Long As You Overlook Its Teams And Players

One of the most unintentionally hilarious sentences currently in print can be found on this SB Nation post by Robert Wheel, a.k.a. Bobby Big Wheel, called "What the NFL can do to support gay players." Beneath, a comma-spliced subhed reads: "The NFL is ready for a gay player, the problem is the rest of society."

Got that, everyone? The NFL's ready to roll out the rainbow carpet. It's just waiting for the rest of us Family Research Council types to get our acts together.

Toward that "society" clause, which is supported by nothing else in the column, Wheel makes the following points:


"The NFL has done a good job so far to lower the burden of being a pioneer, but there is more that they [sic] can do."

Sure. So far, so good.

"We saw that this week when the commissioner's office told teams that they could not ask players if they were gay in Combine interviews."

OK, whoa. That the NFL head office explicitly reminded teams not to ask players' sexual orientations, which the collective bargaining agreement already forbids, doesn't speak to the NFL's overall readiness for openly gay players. It suggests instead that the league's corporate honchos recognize that individual teams need to be reminded how to behave in 2013. And if teams are less than ready, players could lag behind as well. Perhaps it's splitting hairs, but in this case it appears "NFL teams" and "NFL players" might herein be lumped in with "the rest of society" dragging down the NFL's otherwise scout-like preparedness for the LGBT Jackie Robinson.


Jason Whitlock suggested that the NFL hasn't done enough though, and that they should have suspended Chris Culliver for the Super Bowl. But Culliver quickly apologized for his homophobic comments to Artie Lange. The NFL didn't need to suspend him, he'd already learned his lesson from the public outcry.

The public outcry from … the rest of society, no? But does that include NFL players or not? Because it was Culliver who said "I don't do the gay guys, man. … We don't got no gay people on the team. They gotta get up out of here if they do." Even if his is a rare sentiment in locker rooms, you could scarcely blame a gay player from interpreting it to an end other than "the NFL is ready for a gay player."

The best way to address homophobic behavior is to make it socially unacceptable.

This is a half-attempt at insight that appears initially to be unassailable but which, devoid of context, could be hopelessly wrong—sort of like "children are our future" or "chance favors only the prepared mind" or "Reagan-Bush '84." In fact there's no precise line to making something socially unacceptable. An action can be outlawed and yet remain, in most quarters, socially acceptable. (See: drinking during Prohibition, racial discrimination in the Jim Crow South, presently paying CEOs 380 times what their average worker makes, etc.)

Wheel appears to be suggesting that the culture needs to change, and he's right to laud the NFL head office for its steps toward doing so. And yet he's still talking about the culture of the NFL, a culture he says is ready to accept gay players but which the Culliver mess, like many similar outbursts over the years, demonstrates clearly isn't ready, at least not fully. Meanwhile according to Wheel, "the rest of society" is what's holding football back—excluding, we must only assume, the areas of society that have seen fit to welcome openly gay, lesbian and queer folks into the workplace: visual arts, performing arts, culinary arts, news media, entertainment media, the film industry, publishing, the music industry, local government, state government, national government, design, social activism, law, fashion, education, the sciences, hospitality, the frickin' military and, notably, many other albeit lower-profile sports.

You know, the rest of society. To which the NFL, far from some spearhead of societal advancement, is still hoping to catch up.

What the NFL can do to support gay players [SB Nation]