I’m glad NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is trying to say the right thing, but I don’t buy it. Not for a second, and I’ll gladly tell you why. Here was the statement from Goodell yesterday in response to Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib coming out as gay:
He’s not wrong. Representation absolutely matters, but it’s never mattered to Goodell.
The problem with this statement, with this “thank you so much for your courage and for speaking your truth and we love and believe in equality for all and blah blah blah” speech is that the actions behind his words are contrary to those beliefs.
This is the same league which, for more than a year, has been entrenched in a legal battle over its use of “race norming,” namely, its argument that Black athletes have a lower baseline of cognitive function than white athletes and therefore are less deserving of payouts for neurological issues.
This is the same league that has told athletes that it wouldn’t “throw good money after bad.”
This is the league that shamed and rejected Colin Kaepernick for bringing attention to police brutality and the injustices that people of color continue to live within our country.
This is the league that continuously passes over people of color who are qualified candidates for both coaching and front-office positions on a yearly basis, despite the league’s rosters being roughly 70 percent Black.
This would have been a great opportunity for Goodell to have a seat. I understand the desire and the thought process to say “well damn, I guess I should make a statement about that,” but empty words and promises from the head of the league are not what anyone needs. What would have gone a lot further than a statement of “yay, good for you” would have been a pledge to do something.
When Nassib came out, he didn’t make it about him. He made it about others, about LGBTQ youths, about their battles with societal pressures and cultural norms when examining their own sexuality. He took the opportunity to come out, while also pledging a donation to the Trevor Project. If Goodell wanted to do something in support of Nassib, he could have offered a donation as well.
It’s Pride Month, as I’m sure you know. Tucked away in the corner of the NFL’s website is a page dedicated to Pride, which has a few articles and videos. There’s a page about the Trevor Project and the process of coming out, and I was hoping that I would find a way to donate or at least an article about how the league is partnering with them. I didn’t. I found an article, written last October, essentially saying “coming out can be hard. Go to this website if you want more details,” with a link to the Trevor Project website. That’s it.
If representation matters, Goodell, then do something to promote and celebrate it. A cheeky rainbow logo on your social media page for the month of June does not equate to being a leader and pioneer for change and inclusion. But hey, thanks for the placating “representation matters” addition to your four-sentence press release after one of your active players came out as gay for the first time in NFL history.