According to multiple sources, including Mike Florio of NBC Sports and one potential draftee, pro football teams indirectly inquired about prospects’ sexual orientation during the NFL combine which ended yesterday. The most damning evidence against teams was revealed in an interview of prospect Nick Kasa on ESPN Radio Denver yesterday. Kasa reported that teams asked him “Do you have a girlfriend? Are you married? Do you like girls?” If the allegations are true, the questions could be seen as an attempt by teams to screen out any homosexual players.
For those unfamiliar with the NFL combine, it is basically an audition for nearly every top NFL prospect ahead of the April draft. The combine includes physical tests, such as the 40-yard dash, mental tests, and interviews. The interviews are designed to see how coachable a player is and how he may operate within a team environment.
According to Mike Florio of NBC Sports, teams were also very curious about the sexual orientation of Heisman Finalist Manti Te’o. Florio told ProFootballTalk radio host Dan Patrick that,
“Teams want to know whether Manti Te'o is gay. They just want to know. They want to know because in an NFL locker room, it's a different world. It shouldn't be that way.”
These actions run contrary to the NFL’s recent policy trying to promote tolerance. When San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver said he would not accept gays in the locker room before Super Bowl the team issued a statement condemning Culliver’s remarks.
Besides the potential political backlash from LGBT groups, the NFL may also be concerned about a lawsuit. There is no federal law providing protection for homosexuals in the workplace, but 21 states do ban discrimination based on sexual orientations.
Many employers steer clear of questions about a a potential employee’s marital status to avoid lawsuits. For an NFL prospect, the damages of not being selected in the draft, or not being selected as high in the draft, could be in the tens of millions of dollars.