As a Texan, I can't help but love football. I loved watching my school play football since middle school, and I also came to love my boys who played on the team. Many of my friends from high school played football and some even play college ball too. As a long time LGBTQ advocate, with lesbian moms in the family, my football player friends knew better than to be homophobic around me. I know that they don't hold those beliefs, but I am sure others on the team did. Unfortunately, as players of a team where most of the group was homophobic and where the coaches didn't address the issue, they probably didn't call out homophobia either.
Now, obviously I prefer to watch my Longhorns (or even my high school team who made it to State this year!) play, but I recognize the authority of the National Football League and I was ecstatic when they announced a campaign to end homophobia. Finally, times are changing for the better. We have two strong "pro-gay" advocates in Viking punter Chris Kluwe and Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo that are making headlines in the name of equality and acceptance. No longer is football culture the macho place where homophobia is the accepted standard.
This new hope is why I was even more upset to hear 49ers Chris Culliver openly spread hate in a radio interview. Not a mild or vague homophobic comment (which are still a problem), but promoting his belief that if a football player is gay, he should stay in the closet for at least ten years after he leaves the NFL. Or that there are no gay men on the San Francisco 49ers team, and if there were, they would have "Get up out of here... Can't be with that sweet stuff." And still more barbaric, that the issue would be whether or not they could even share a locker room. WHAT?!?
There is no misinterpretation about these comments. It is clear what Culliver meant and it is clear that he thinks this is acceptable, or even funny. It is not. I agree with Michelangelo Signorile that the NFL must make a stand and begin to take homophobic remarks seriously, with serious repercussions. I also believe that in addition to disciplining players who violate the policy, the NFL must be proactive and require ally training and education for players.
The NFL sets an example for football players and fans around the country, which is a huge following, and they must use this power for good and end homophobia in the NFL.