NFL Teams Are Asking if Manti Te’o Is Gay, Homophobia in Football Alive and Well

Yet another reason why we shouldn't expect homophobia in sports to go away any time soon.

By Jamilah King Feb 27, 2013

Apparently so, because the federal protections that apply to most of the rest of us don’t extend to the guys we root for every fall. [Here’s more from Martin Rogers at Yahoo! Sports](–can-nfl-teams-ask-manti-te-o-if-he-s-gay–depends-on-which-teams-are-doing-the-asking-024157625.html): > A quirk in the American legal system means that NFL teams are governed by differing laws on the level of intrusive questioning they can impose on potential draft picks such as Manti Te’o. > > Te’o’s sexuality has been the subject of much debate following the fallout of the Notre Dame defensive star’s hoax girlfriend saga that thrust him into a storm of media attention and, unfortunately, public ridicule. > > One NFL insider, NBC Sports’ Mike Florio, said Monday that several NFL organizations would like to know whether the powerful Hawaiian linebacker is gay, describing the matter as the "elephant in the room." > …While federal law protects certain characteristics from discrimination, such as race, gender, religion or belief and disability, it "has been slow to catch up on aspects like sexuality," according to Professor Dylan Malagrino, a sports law expert from Western State University College of Law, in Fullerton, Calif. > In total, 13 of the NFL’s 32 teams are legally allowed to ask Te’o about his sexuality based on what’s legally permissible in each team’s home state. There was much hubbub around the varying stances NFL players took in the weeks leading up the Super Bowl. In short, the league really wants you to believe that it’s a forward-thinking space, but the culture of sports has long been filled with both overt and covert homophobia. This news about Manti Te’o seems like one more entrenched, systemic reason why we shouldn’t expect homophobia to go away in professional football any time soon, because a players’ presumptive sexuality is still seen as a huge off-field liability.