Sports Illustrated interviewed a bunch of NFL executives anonymously, and they responded with the lack of care and insight anonymity guarantees
The NFL is ready for a lot of things: it can handle wardrobe malfunctions, 100% tax exemptions, middle-finger-flipping rappers, massive lawsuits over debilitating player injuries and even Tim Tebow. But it can’t do gay. We know this because SEC Defensive Player of the Year and no-brainer NFL draft pick Michael Sam just announced that he’s gay, prior to the draft. So Sports Illustrated went inside the league to bravely quote eight different anonymous team executives on the matter. Will Sam’s announcement affect his standing in the draft? Does it imperil his chances of making an NFL team? “It’s still a man’s-man game,” said one executive, proving his own manliness by refusing to give his name. This brave man did allow that the time might be right for a gay NFL player in the “next decade or two.” But for now it would “chemically imbalance a locker room.” Putting aside whether imbalance can be used as a verb (it can’t)–and whether a 6’2″, 260 lb. end who will graduate from the University of Missouri might–as a bonus–bring decent grammar to the game, is it true that Sam will be locker room poison? Well, no. It’s just stupid. Why didn’t Sports Illustrated ask any of the executives: Don’t you think what you’re saying is stupid? We’ll never know.
“Not that they’re against gay people. It’s more that some players are going to look at you upside down,” said another NFL exec, describing the predicament Sam’s honesty puts him and his brethren in. Another exec says: “There are guys in locker rooms that maturity-wise cannot handle it.” A “veteran scout” said “It’s human nature. Do you want to be the team to quote-unquote ‘break that barrier?'” Hmmm, breaking barriers–Jackie Robinson anyone? It might be assumed that a league where more than 65% of the players are African-American would be a place that gleefully broke barriers–and that the players would lead the wrecking crews. One positive: in asking the executives, SI probably isn’t representing the league accurately. There’s a generation gap between the players and management, of course, and the players–like Sam’s teammates at Missouri–might not really give a damn. In discarding homophobia they’d join Giants co-owner Steve Tisch, notably the only man walking around with both a Super Bowl ring and an Oscar (Hollywood, wouldn’t you know, employs gays). Tisch’s response wasn’t anonymous. He simply said “Michael Sam is a gifted athlete and a courageous man.”