Virtual manna for sports stats junkies and football obsessives, the NFL Combine consists largely of rookie hopefuls running the 40-yard dash, bench pressing hundreds of pounds of weights, and taking the infamous Wonderlic Personnel Test, all so that scores can be recorded, players’ values can be deduced, and various teams can determine each prospect’s football potential.
At this year’s Combine, however, NFL teams reportedly recorded one more bit of information: is a player straight, or gay?
According to NBC’s Mike Florio, many teams are inquiring into the sexual orientation of rookie prospects. “Teams want to know if Manti Te’o is gay,” Florio said on the Dan Patrick Show. “I don’t think anyone knows how to solve this dilemma yet.”
But the line of questioning goes beyond Te’o, and the incredible story of the Notre Dame linebacker’s fade dead girlfriend Internet hoax (see "Situationist Philosopher Guy Debord and the Unbelievable True Story of Manti Te'o's Fake Dead Girlfriend," Free Sport, 1/18/13).
“University of Colorado tight end Nick Kasa, Michigan’s Denard Robinson, and Le’veon Bell of Michigan State reported being asked questions that indirectly referenced their sexual orientation,” notes NPR’s Only A Game.
“They ask you like, ‘Do you have a girlfriend?’ ‘Are you married?’ ‘Do you like girls?’” NFL hopeful Nick Kasa told ESPN Radio in Denver. “But they would ask you with a straight face, and it’s a pretty weird experience altogether.”
The questions, needless to say, have caused a bit of controversy regarding this year’s Combine.
“These questions are worse than “weird”,” Dave Zirin writes at The Nation. “They’re actually illegal.”
“Regardless of the reason, [these questions are] a completely inappropriate and illegal practice that has been going on since I was playing,” former NFLer Wade Davis, who came out after his retirement, told Zirin. “The questioning further reinforces stereotypes around what type of player or players the NFL wants.”
And the questions aren't benefitting the NFL, nor is it helping the league move forward on issues more relevant in our twenty-first century, says Mike Tanier, of Sports on Earth.
“It’s against league policy, it’s against the collective bargaining agreement, it’s against the law, and it’s against what the NFL is trying to do in terms of being progressive on a variety of issues,” Tanier told Only A Game. “What I think … they’ve come up against is the same thing they came up against in the bounty case, where you have a changing culture over the course of 10, 15 years, that a bunch of individuals who are older men who are in a super macho environment and climate, to coin a phrase, have not yet gotten that memo.”