Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Big News? NFL Player to Come Out of the Closet

"Some believe atmosphere is safe for a gay NFL player to come out."  That is the headline of this CBS article linked on Drudge today. From the article:
Based on interviews over the past several weeks with current and former players, I'm told that a current gay NFL player is strongly considering coming out publicly within the next few months -- and after doing so, the player would attempt to continue his career.
I'm told this player feels the time is now for someone to take this step -- despite homophobic remarks from San Francisco 49ers defensive back Chris Culliver and the controversy arising recently at the Indianapolis Scouting combine, when prospects were asked questions about their sexuality.

This player's true concern, I'm told, is not the reaction inside an NFL locker room but outside of it. The player fears he will suffer serious harm from homophobic fans, and that is the only thing preventing him from coming out. My sources will not say who this alleged player is.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday will hear oral arguments on California's Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage. Opponents of the proposition say it discriminates against gay men and women.

To Fujita and others, this is an important case that could have ramifications in the NFL. If the Supreme Court overturns Proposition 8, it would send yet another signal to closeted gay NFL players that the environment is changing for the better.

To be sure, this would probably not be as big of a news item, if not for the hubbub surrounding the Supreme Court review of two gay rights cases, one of which is a review of California's Prop 8 vote where Californians voted in the majority to ban gay marriage in the state.  Implied in the above mentioned article, if the Court strikes down Prop 8, it will signal an environment in which it might be "safe" for NFL players to be openly gay.

It amuses me that there is such an effort to tie the fate of gay NFL players to a decision in favor of gay marriage.  After all, the right to be openly gay in the NFL has little if anything to do with the ability to be married in a state-recognized ceremony.  The implication is that if gay marriage isn't given a federal legal allowance, it will signify that America is still just a bigoted nation of homophobes, and a homosexual football player might be threatened with violence daily for his life choice.  But if nine lawyers in the Court reimagine current law and overrule California's popular vote, then it will signal that America has somehow changed enough to warrant a gay NFL player safely coming out.  It's hard to imagine such a silly presumption being taken seriously by anyone -- but here we are, discussing an article by an author who does.

The funniest thing about all of this, though, is that the author suggests that he hopes, when this gay player comes out, that it will be a non-issue.  The truth is, it is already a non-issue to the vast majority of Americans.  It is the author, and the pro-gay marriage lobby that he represents, that is making an NFL player being openly gay an issue by tying his coming out to a legitimate and polarizing legal issue.

I'm an avid NFL fan, and when this gay player and others come out, I'll simply do what most Americans will do.  I'll say, "Good for him," and go on about my day.  Ironically, the people that will undoubtedly make the biggest deal of it are the same ideologues who are invested in the issue of gay marriage -- which, again, is somewhat silly, considering that being openly gay in the NFL has nothing to do with gay marriage as a social or legal issue.

The truth of the matter is that the choice to be gay is broadly accepted in America today, even if the issue of gay marriage is a polarizing cultural matter, and NFL players can, and should be able to be openly gay in the NFL without fear of hatred or violent acts against them.  But a state should also not have to forfeit its constitutional right to govern in the manner that its people demand, so long as it's within legal limitations. 

A gay NFL player's ability to be openly gay should not be dependent on a state's forfeiture of sovereignty, no matter how attractive it might be for gay marriage advocates to lump the issues together. 

William Sullivan