I'd like to think I'm progressive but realistic about homophobia in professional sports- Things are better on this front than they used to be, but still, if you got rid of every Seahawks player that had regressive, retrograde ideas about sexual orientation, we might not be able to field a team.
A long time ago I played football, and the atmosphere on the field and in the locker room was intensely homophobic... A violent, aggressive sport + teenage boys going through puberty and trying to prove their manhood = an anti-gay atmosphere worse than Eddie Murphy Delirious. I'd like to imagine things are better now, but pop into any online game on Xbox Live, and you'll hear "faggot" more than pretty much any other word.
Why do I bring this up? I had let this slip from my memory banks, but a few years back, at the NFL rookie symposium, former player Esera Tualolo addressed the incoming rookies. Tuaolo came out as gay after his playing career, and found a largely respectful audience at the symposium, with one (allegedly) glaring exception:
USC tailback LenDale White, who asked Tuaolo "Is it offensive if I call you a faggot if you are a faggot?" More from the original story:
The tone of the question was not one of genuine curiosity.
"The response from the room was lots of groans and guys were rolling their eyes," Tuaolo said. "It was like guys were saying, 'I'm glad I'm not on his team.' "
Tuaolo's answer to the question was simple: "Anytime you use it negatively, it's just not right."
This isn't WHY the Seahawks cut LenDale White, but I'll admit I'm glad I don't have to root for him this fall. The good news, in my opinion, is that things are changing in the right direction... Someday, openly gay men (and, maybe, gay or straight women) will play in the NFL, just as they are about to be able to serve openly in our armed forces. Who you are romantically inclined toward has nothing to do with your level of skill on the gridiron (or how well you can translate arabic, for example), and I think more people are figuring this out.
Here's the good news... check out this reaction to the incident from a newly minted Seahawk:
Chargers quarterback Charlie Whitehurst was in the room when the question was asked, and he called it an “ugly” scene.
“I have tremendous respect for the guy,” Whitehurst said of Tuaolo. “He was kind of living a lie there for a long time, and I guess he had to do it. It definitely must have been tough for him. I think the majority of the players really took to him and accepted the fact that – one thing you learn quickly in the NFL is you don't question anybody who's been there and done it as a player, no matter what it is.”
Now where can I buy a Whitehurst jersey? :)