By Elliott Moore, Sports Intern at GLAAD
Yesterday, Outside the Lines host Bob Ley interviewed (Bob Ley pictured right) a panel on the recent allegations of questions being asked to potential NFL draftees about their sexual orientation. The panel was formed after the gay rumors swirled around former Notre Dame star Manti Te’o saying that he had a long-term online relationship with Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, without knowing who Tuiasosopo was, and the statements given by University of Colorado tight end Nick Kasa, who claimed that NFL teams not only asked him if he had a girlfriend but also if he liked girls at all. In the episode the panel discusses the necessity for NFL combine scouts to not specifically ask about a player’s orientation, with former professional football player Wade Davis stating that being gay has no bearing on whether or not someone can play. The panel also discussed the necessity for, and positive effects of, an athlete coming out as gay.
This isn’t the first time that Outside the Lines has discussed the possibility of an openly gay athlete in men’s professional sports. In 2011, not that long ago, the show discussed why there are no openly gay athletes in American men’s professional sports. This episode came in the wake of the controversy surrounding New York Rangers forward Sean Avery’s support of gay marriage for gays and lesbians in New York State. Again, not even two years ago, the show hosted former hockey coach Barry Melrose as he stated that a player or coach does not, “even want to think that (a player is) gay.” All the way back in 2001 OTS did another episode about the possibility of an athlete coming out as gay in which Bob Ley sat down with former MLB outfielder Billy Bean, among others. Bean, who initially made headlines when he came out as gay after retiring from baseball in the 90s, stated that he felt a professional baseball player would not come out as gay, fearing loss of money and their careers.
This episode, however, marked a change. There was no other opinion, no voice against the idea of an openly gay athlete. Instead, there was overwhelmingly positive support for the possibility of an LGBT identifying person playing in the NFL. LZ Granderson, an openly gay senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine, stated that he was glad that NFL draftees and scouts were at least talking about being gay in the NFL. In the segment on OTL, Granderson stated that he is upset with the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” mentality that has lasted for too long in professional football and is glad that at least football is addressing the fact that gay players do exist. People who do not think an athlete can be openly gay and play do still exist. However, the idea of bringing someone on the show with that type of ideology now appears to be archaic. In the years since Bob Ley’s interview with Billy Bean, the question has shifted from ‘should a player come out?’ to ‘when will a player come out?’