The NFL will host a meeting in early April designed to craft a game plan for the League to better tackle LGBT issues within the NFL. The meeting will include representatives from GLAAD, the You Can Play project and Athlete Ally.
"It is the next step in a discussion that has been ongoing between all of our organizations since last year," said GLAAD's Aaron McQuade, who heads up the group's sports-based efforts. "Part of it was us speaking at the NFL's diversity summit, part of it was working with them to create an LGBT- friendly atmosphere for employees, and now they're looking into extending that to players."
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello confirmed the meeting to Outsports:
"The purpose of the meeting is to further develop our relationship with major organizations in the LGBT community. We are seeking opportunities for education and support as we promote diversity and inclusion throughout the NFL."
The League has taken various steps over the last several years to put on a more inclusive face and institute key policies. In 2006, the NFL fined Pittsburgh Steeler Joey Porter $10k for calling Kellen Winslow a 'fag.' In 2011, the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and NFLPA included sexual-orientation protection. Two weeks ago, the League spoke out against teams asking prospective rookies about their sexual orientation. League representatives have also always been incredibly respectful to and appreciative of the work we do here at Outsports.
Now the League is taking the next step, sitting down with key experts in this area to map out a way forward. This is a big step in the right direction, and the organizations involved have a track record in the sports world that will help navigate the waters.
"We've had experience doing this at the NHL level, and we're excited that the NFL reached out to us to be part of this discussion," said You Can Play founder Patrick Burke. "[The NFL's] Troy Vincent and Anna Isaacson are taking this seriously. They want to do this right. At he end of the day, getting rules changes [like the new CBA] is important, but it's far more important to change the culture. That's the role that, with Esera Tuaolo and Wade Davis working on our behalf, we excel at. We did it in the NHL and we're ready to do it in the NFL."
Vincent is vice president of the NFL Player Engagement Organization. Isaacson is director the NFL's community programs.
Athlete Ally founder Hudson Taylor is also excited to sit down with the League and get some work done.
"Our work at Athlete Ally, whether supporting professional leagues or collegiate athletic departments, is to answer the tough questions," Taylor said in a statement. "Having co-authored the NCAA's policy guide and handbook on LGBT inclusion in sports, we have been able to compile and articulate nuanced policies and guidelines in a way that has never been done before and we now have a critical road map for the NFL, and other leagues, to help tackle this issue. We are confident that the NFL, with an ally in Roger Goodell, will be on the right side of the fight to end homophobia."
The meeting has been in the works for some time, well ahead of the New York attorney general's open letterreleased earlier today.
Currently only one of the groups' representatives -- Wade Davis, who will represent You Can Play along with Burke -- will be an openly gay person.
"We wanted to ensure that there was at least one LGBT voice in the room," Burke said. "We're lucky that it's also a voice of the NFL culture and the black culture."
Athlete Ally board member Lia Parifax said this is just the first meeting of its kind, and she's sure more LGBT voices will be part of the discussion in the near future. Athlete Ally board member Sam Marchiano, a straight woman who has dealt with gender bias in sports for years, will join Taylor in representing Athlete Ally at the meeting.