Gay people have been around a lot longer than football. But don’t tell the NFL that, as “gay” has become the latest bandwagon the league has jumped on after short stints of acting as if it cares about social and racial justice, breast cancer, and patriotism.
Football is gay.
That’s the slogan the NFL is using in their latest video in support of the LGBTQ community after Raiders defensive lineman Carl Nassib came out last week as the first openly gay player in the league’s history. The NFL is now claiming that football is gay, lesbian, queer, transgender, bisexual, and for everyone – as if that hasn’t always been the case about a game that was created by college students over 150 years ago.
“This spot is about celebrating Pride, and the importance of inclusion. It’s imperative that we use our voice and leverage the NFL platform to drive positive change, which includes supporting what our players care about and what they stand for,” NFL chief marketing officer Tim Ellis told Outsports.com.
Is that so, Tim?
Because I feel like we’ve seen this movie before. Ya know, the one where the NFL retroactively acts like it cares about an issue that it ignored for years, and then all of sudden the league will release a video as if it’s some instantaneous antidote. Because if my memory serves me correctly, Michael Sam never got a video made in support of him. The NFL did him so dirty that they barely drafted him, as the Rams took him with 249th pick out of 256 total selections. Sam was an All-American his senior year at Missouri and shared the SEC Defensive Player of the Year Award with Alabama’s C.J. Mosley. Every player to win that award since 2002 has been a high draft pick — except Sam.
Last fall, we watched as the NFL etched “It takes all of us” and “End racism” into the end zones, even though it took almost an act of God to get Washington’s football team to change their name from a racial slur, while Kansas City still has a racist team name, and Colin Kaepernick is still being blackballed.
“I wish we had listened earlier, Kaep, to what you were kneeling about and what you were trying to bring attention to,” Goodell said in August. “We had invited him in several times to have the conversation, to have the dialogue. I wish we had the benefit of that, we never did. We would have benefited from that, absolutely.”
The league then released a video about how “it takes all of us” to end racism —putting the burden on Black people to fix a problem we didn’t create.
This faux wokeness about issues is the NFL’s favorite play to run. Back in 2015, the league wouldn’t allow De’Angelo Williams to wear pink throughout the season to honor his mother who had died of breast cancer the year before. The league makes money by selling pink merchandise during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and Williams’ request didn’t fit with their business and marketing models.
During that same year, just before Colin Kaepernick started kneeling and as the NFL had suddenly become more “patriotic,” John McCain and Jeff Flake discovered that the Department of Defense spent $53 million on patriotic displays at sporting events, which included more than $10 million paid to teams in the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, and MLS, as the NFL was one of the largest partners in the pay for patriotism scandal.
The fact that Carl Nassib’s announcement about his sexuality hasn’t been earth-shattering news proves that progress is being made, and that has to be commended – not ignored. However, the NFL’s continued insincerity around important topics is exhausting. How audacious do you have to be to finally realize that in 2021, football — like every other sport — isn’t just for straight people.