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NFL Commissioner Honored with Gay Son

Paul Tagliabue and son Drew honored by PFLAG

Chris Graythen

NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and his wife, Chandler, were honored Monday night by the New York chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays with the PFLAG 2005 Stay Close Individual Leadership Award. Tagliabue had given a sizable donation to PFLAG for the campaign. Tagliabue's son, Drew, is openly gay.

Paul Tagliabue and his family have been strong supporters of PFLAG's Stay Close campaign since its inception, according to the program's co-founder, Suzanne Ramos. The program consists of print advertisements featuring famous people and their gay relatives. Featured pairs include Cyndi Lauper and her sister, Elen; Ben Affleck and his cousin Jason; and at Monday's event, PFLAG unveiled the latest ad: Rosario Dawson & her gay uncle, Frank. Drew Tagliabue is also a co-founder of the campaign.

Ramos said that PFLAG is now actively pursuing athletes to feature with their gay relatives.

Paul Tagliabue spoke at the dinner about his love for Drew and Drew's partner, Mark Jones. He also discussed the important, positive impact of PFLAG's Stay Close campaign and how he has been struck by the quality and uplifting character of the campaign.

Chandler Tagliabue delivered remarks regarding her love for her children, Drew and Emily, and her distaste for the hijacking of "family values" by a select group in this country.

The group's Annual Dinner, hosted by Queer Eye's Kyan Douglas, was held at the Tribeca Rooftop at 2 Desbrosses Street. Others in attendance at the dinner included Cyndi Lauper (who sang "True Colors"), New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft, former NFL player Esera Tuaolo, and former high school football player Corey Johnson. Kraft is a close friend of the NFL commissioner and he donated $5,000 for the dinner.

Johnson, who came out while the captain of his high school football team in Middleton, Mass., found he had something in common with the Krafts, other than a love of the Patriots; Kraft had been familiar with Johnson's story because of family members who lived in his hometown. In Manhattan on Monday evening, though, it was Johnson giving Kraft directions to a Boston bar to watch the Red Sox play in the NFL offseason.

A graduate of Amherst College in Massachusetts, Drew Tagliabue, 36, is an associate with Russell Reynolds Associates, a global executive search firm. According to the firm's Web site, "With his international business experience, Drew also has expertise in cross-border and cross-cultural recruiting for international clients."

In fact, he's so good at international recruiting that he managed to bring Jones, his partner of over 10 years, to the United States from Australia in 2002.

While it's incredibly positive that the commissioner of the NFL is so supportive of PFLAG, that doesn't necessarily translate to across-the-board gay-positive policies at the NFL.

On the bright side, the NFL does have a non-discrimination policy covering sexual orientation in its employee handbook. The NFL League offices also offer same-sex domestic partner benefits. Paul also has reportedly included Drew in league sensitivity training about gay issues.

However, the NFL Players Association still does not offer same-sex partner benefits, despite the repeated requests by former NFL players Esera Tuaolo and Dave Kopay, who receive NFLPA benefits, that they do. In 2002, when rumors were swirling that New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza was gay, Tagliabue was asked if the NFL was ready for an openly gay player. "That's a baseball question. I'm not comfortable with baseball questions," the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger reported Tagliabue saying. And, unlike baseball's actions against John Rocker for the pitcher's anti-gay and racist comments, the NFL has taken no action against players who have made homophobic remarks.

Still, it's good to know that someone who is sensitive to gay-rights issues is leading the charge of America's most successful, and most hyper-masculinized, sports organization.