Commissioner Roger Goodell has succeeded in bringing many changes to the NFL including new rules that favor player safety, new television deals that have solidified the league’s financial future and labor peace, one of professional sports’ most elusive objectives. Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock wants the commish to do more, though. In his column today Whitlock calls on Goodell to bring an end to homophobia in the NFL.
Whitlock’s article is predicated on the Manti T’eo story. Even though T’eo has denied being a homosexual (he didn’t have an imaginary boyfriend, after all), his potential gayness is said to be the “elephant in the room” around the NFL. Whitlock says that T’eo presents a golden opportunity for Roger Goodell, who has an openly gay brother, to put out a welcome mat for gay players.
Naturally, there’s only so much the commissioner can do. Even if Goodell were to shout from his mountain top that all are welcome in the NFL, the players would have to be on board. Goodell is powerless to force football players to have an open mind about such things. He cannot force the integration of gays on the league. This is not an issue that can be dictated from the top down. It’s one that will have to be resolved from the bottom up.
At some point in the not so distant future, an athlete in a major sport is going to come out of the closet during his career. That player will be the Jackie Robinson of his generation. He will be admired for his courage. But, at the same time, he will suffer slings and arrows.
What Whitlock proposes is change for the sake of change. His grandiose proclamation is bunk and he knows it. It’s another example of Whitlock writing to a headline in order to attract readers. His proposal is unrealistic and synthetic.
Just as society has had to evolve where acceptance of homosexuality is concerned, the NFL along with the NBA, NHL and MLB will evolve, too. Progress may not come as quickly as some people would prefer but it will come nonetheless. Goodell has hasten the process, but he cannot force it.
Whitlock suggests that Goodell should make the NFL a “zero tolerance zone for homophobia”. That assertion is as ridiculous as suggesting that the league be a “zero racism zone”. Does Whitlock assume that’s the case? I’ll bet not. In fact, Whitlock is constantly on the prowl for instances of racial discrimination (when he’s not making racist remarks of his own).
Jason Whitlock makes a heady assertion and he probably feels pretty good about himself for doing it. But his efforts come of as self-serving and clumsy. He points to the character “Omar” from the HBO series “the Wire” as having enlightened him. Omar was a very gay, very bad man who robbed drug dealers for a living. This is who turned Whitlock from a homophobe into a progressive, modern male? Child, please.
Whitlock’s article concludes with this sentence: “No active professional football, basketball or baseball player has come out of the closet because no commissioner or owner has had the courage to hand him the key to unlocking the door.” It sounds nice and I am certain that Whitlock had gotten many pats on the back for this article. But no commissioner, no owner has access to that “key”. The door will not unlock all at once. It’s a process and Whitlock knows it.
There’s nothing more maddening that a sports writer who writes stuff he doesn’t believe.