Updated with statement from the NFL, Oct. 9, 10:45pmET
The NFL will host a symposium on inclusion and diversity on Wednesday in New York at the League headquarters. The NFL has also invited other pro-sports leagues to attend. And in a statement to Outsports, NFL spokesperson Greg Aiello said two gay-rights groups will be participating:
GLSEN (Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network) and GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) were both invited to participate and GLAAD is actually leading one of the discussions.
This is great to see, and it's important for the future of the League to champion inclusion of diverse perspectives. The inclusion of GLAAD leading a discussion signals a commitment to including sexual orientation as part of the discussion.
However, Outsports has obtained a copy of the invitation sent by the NFL and, shockingly, the league did not mention sexual orientation in its invitation, which listed several other demographics. The invitation reads:
The NFL is hosting its first Diversity & Inclusion Symposium. This event will bring together representatives from sports leagues, organizations and governing bodies to share their best practices in an open dialogue during a day long session of panel and group discussions.
In addition, the group will address the ways that issues such as gender, age, disabilities and religion factor into working culture. The objective is to share and inspire ideas promoting Diversity and Inclusion as engines for economic and employee development in our fast growing global marketplace.
It's great that sexual orientation will be discussed at the event. That's awesome. Still, the failure to mention sexual orientation in their invitation is disappointing.
Aiello told Outsports the invitation was finalized before sexual orientation was included in the program.
The NFL knows that they have never had an publicly out owner, coach or player in the game. They've never had a publicly out league executive. There has never been a publicly out on-air personality at NFL Network, ESPN, Fox Sports or anywhere else on a national sports network. They know this, and their addressing it slowly but surely. Still, their failure to mention sexual orientation reflects the closet that these men and women feel the need to stay in.
At the end of the day, however, it's far more important that the discussion will happen at the symposium than whether it's mentioned in the invitation, so this is a big win for the LGBT community. It's a step forward.
Just last Saturday I was on a Blogs With Balls panel discussion that talked about this very issue: Diversity in sports and in the workplace (video below). Organizers of that discussion did not shy away from talking publicly and specifically about sexual orientation when promoting the event. I'm proud of them for that.
We'll have more about the event soon...