By The Charlotte Observer Editorial Board
LSU running back Derrius Guice told a radio show Wednesday that one team asked him at an NFL scouting combine interview last week if he was gay.
This is still a thing?
It shouldn’t be. As NFL front offices and anyone who has an HR department knows, asking a prospective employee about his sexual orientation is getting uncomfortably close to illegal. It’s already against the law in more than 20 states (North Carolina isn’t one of them) and a federal appeals court ruled last month that sexual orientation is protected by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. That means you can’t fire someone for being gay – and it likely means you’re in hot water if you ask them about it in an interview.
NFL team officials might argue, weakly, that the combine interviews aren’t technically job interviews, and team officials have long contended privately that the questions they ask players at the combine are not about discrimination but rather trying to see how they respond to uncomfortable situations. That’s probably what was behind another team asking Guice last week if his mother was a prostitute. It’s been going on for years – Dez Bryant was asked the same about his mother in 2010 by a Miami Dolphins exec, and in 2016 the Falcons asked cornerback Eli Apple if he was gay.
There’s progress at least. When caught, NFL teams and execs apologize for their insensitivity. The NFL expresses disappointment and reminds teams that it has a policy through its Excellence in Workplace Conduct program about team officials asking players such questions. But apparently, that’s not enough.
The league can do more. It should start by mandating that teams record their interview sessions with players, so that interviewers at least have the threat of their boorishness being on the record. The NFL also should levy a heavy and public fine to executives and teams that ask inappropriate questions of players who have little recourse but to sit and take the humiliation rather than being labeled a “bad interview.”
The NFL has enough problems right now with its slow-footed response to concussions and stumbles surrounding the national anthem. Asking college kids if they’re gay makes the league look even more out of touch, and worse, it furthers the notion that homosexuality is something to be scorned. It’s time for the NFL to do more than just frown.