If you’ve kept up with the NFL Combine or anything surrounding it in the past couple of weeks, you may have heard LSU running back Derrius Guice spill some tea on an unidentified team after one of its scouts asked Guice a pointed question in a private interview.
“Do you like men?”
The inquiry may not have been made in as few words, but that’s what it amounted to.
In 2013, former NFL spokesman Greg Aiello went on record after a similar question was asked of former Colorado tight end Nick Kasa.
“There are specific protections in our Collective Bargaining Agreement with the players that prohibit discrimination against any player, including on the basis of sexual orientation,” Aiello said.
Guice’s case wasn’t the first instance of this, and I’d bet top dollar it won’t be the last.
Yes, the question is illegal to ask any potential employee. Yes, the question is deeply homophobic. Yes, the interviewer ought to be fired and the organization he works for fined and punished further.
But what motivated the question in the first place?
In 2014, former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam became the first openly gay man drafted by an NFL team when he went in the seventh round to St. Louis. While he didn’t make the final roster, the fact that he got to that point proves it can be done.
So why does a team ask an illegal question such as this?
In short, it’s because of the fanbase.
NFL fans as a whole are still the farthest away from realizing equality on the field. Some of the old folks who still cling to images of Joe Namath running off the field after a potentially rigged Super Bowl would have a conniption if they saw their team taking a gay player.
Heck, when players started taking knees en masse during the national anthem, I’m sure those same folks were quick to record a Blair Witch-style montage video of them burning their team’s merchandise, complete with frantic rambling about how the team doesn’t respect veterans.
This isn’t to say that a solid majority of NFL fans would care about a gay football player being drafted. Heck, Sam’s jersey became the second-best selling rookie jersey behind Johnny Manziel that year.
However, the lost profit from the fans on the other side of the fence of decency makes Derrius Guice’s question an enticing one for a team. It becomes less, “Do you like men?” and more, “Will any aspect of your life alienate even our most bigoted supporters?” But it’s still disgusting, immoral and illegal no matter how it’s spun.