One of the biggest of controversies surrounding the NFL after the Scouting Combine is teams asking players about their sexual orientation. Sports in general have been considered homophobic and it even caused a young soccer player to retire early recently. Many questioned Manti Te’o's sexual orientation following the fake girlfriend hoax.
Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita went on 92.3 The Ticket in Cleveland and talked about what the NFL and NFLPA need to do in order for change to come about in the NFL.
“First of all I think what Domonique Foxworth wrote yesterday was fantastic. I reached out to him immediately after whatever he wrote,” Fujita said, via Sports Radio Interviews. “That’s what it takes. It takes more and more straight athletes to come out and show our support and that’s what it’s about.”
“I think for far too long there was this perception, or I guess I would call it a misperception, that our locker rooms in the NFL are extremely homophobic and that could not be further from the truth,” Fujita said. “I was talking to a friend of mine who writes for Outsports a few years ago and at that time it was the perception. I said, ‘That’s not the case at all.’ I would argue that the overwhelming majority would be fine with having a teammate who was gay.”
“I said the only way you are going to find out if that was the case if you start asking guys how they would feel about having a gay teammate. Outsports has done a great job of embarking on this mission of asking guys and I think he’s found that’s the case,” Fujita said. “The overwhelming majority would be completely fine with that. It’s important for closet gay athletes everywhere, not just at the professional level, but more importantly athletes at the younger level in high school and college, to understand they do have support around them and that they can come out and feel comfortable. And honestly, that is going to help save lives.”
The problem with that is we saw the remarks Chris Culliver made leading up to the Super Bowl about having a gay teammate. Culliver’s comments validate that perception and go against what Fujita says.
But despite what might be acceptable in San Francisco, Fujita says the Browns would embrace a gay teammate.
“It would not be an issue at all. Regarding what Ted Carter said and things are said at unfortunate times,” Fujita said. “I think it’s important not to be quick on somebody using these inappropriate words like ‘faggot’ with that person even being homophobic or discriminatory. A lot of times it’s just a common part of young men’s jargon and that’s the other part of it.”
“We have to take this to the next level to eliminate that kind of discussion. Again, just because guys use words like that, a lot of guys don’t mean it to be harmful in any way. They don’t mean to be prejudice.,” Fujita said. “Many cases they don’t understand what they’re saying could be harmful or offensive. In cases like that, I generally tend to take the guy to the side rather then lambaste him publicly cause I don’t think a lot can come from that. A lot of times it is about educating a guy and letting him know, ‘Hey, a lot of people might be affected by that. You have no idea if the guy in the locker next to you could be affected by that, so why not create an atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable to be who they are?’”
If Fujita handles those situations like that he is a beacon of leadership. As for the Scouting Combine interviews Fujita isn’t rushing to judgement and understands how it could come up but doesn’t excuse it.
“I wasn’t there for those conversations to hear or see what exactly happened. I try not to be quick to rush to judgement. … I try to pause when I read things like that, but again, I think that’s another case where perhaps as a coach maybe they were just talking like locker-room, tough-guy talk around a bunch of other meatheads in the room, and you never know what the context was. I’m not trying to excuse the behavior. It doesn’t make it right, but to me the onus is on the NFL to stand up and make a statement about this and to issue a memo to the clubs and really clearly define what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable. Certainly asking someone about their sexuality — first of all it’s against the law. Second of all, it’s absolutely a violation of our CBA and that’s where the NFL the onus is on them to do the right thing.”
But at least we’re talking about the topic which is a step in the right direction.
“I appreciate the fact that more minds are being open to talking about this conversation, and in the very near future it’s going to be the point where this conversation won’t even need to be had. I tweeted this yesterday almost half jokingly, but there’s going to come a time in a couple of year from now where my daughters are actually going to look at me in the eye and say, ‘I can’t even believe you guys were having that conversation.’ I look forward to getting to that point.”