The last time an NFL coach asked a potential draftee if he “liked men,” the league did nothing. Encouraged by advisors to focus on “education,” the league took no action against the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons, in turn, did not suspend the coach who asked the offensive and illegal questions, Marquand Manuel. Heck, they even promoted him to defensive coordinator a year later.
The failures on the part of the NFL and the Falcons sent a clear message to coaches that asking potential draftees if they were gay was NOT off-limits.
Yes the NFL issued statements about how terrible it was two years ago. But actions speak louder than words. Just ask any coach in the league, he’ll tell you just that.
So it’s no surprise that NFL coaches watched the league’s failure to act on this issue just two years ago and pushed full-steam ahead with more questions about whether players “liked men” or not.
Make no mistake: If they asked him this question, they asked other players as well. This isn’t just one team asking one player. It’s definitely one team asking multiple players, and possibly even more wide-spread than that.
If the NFL is serious about eradicating this behavior — which, so far, it has not been — the league must hold both the team and the offending coach responsible.
First, whatever coach asked the question should be suspended for Week 1 of the 2018 season. Just as with players, the way to send a message is to remove the person from participating in a game. Fines don’t get the message through. Banning them from participation does. Suspend the coach without pay for Week 1 of the upcoming season. He’ll never ask that question ever again.
Second, the team responsible should lose a fourth-round draft pick. The invasive, illegal question had to do with the upcoming NFL Draft. The punishment should be part of the Draft as well. Take away a fourth-round pick from a team for this, and you can be darn sure every team will guarantee questions about the sexual orientation of potential draftees will never, ever be asked again in the NFL.
Some people will say they should lose a first-round pick. That’s not going to happen, and frankly even I think that would be too harsh of a punishment. If it happens next year? Then let’s talk.
This time a fourth-round draft pick — the round that has produced the likes of Jared Allen, Elvis Dumervil and Darren Sproles — feels right.
The last time this happened, the league made a statement, sent some emails and walked away. Two years later, no one should be surprised that the same thing has happened again.
If the NFL again listens to people advocating for “more education and less punishment,” they are falling into the proverbial definition of insanity: doing the same thing expecting a different result.
Anything short of a suspension and loss of Draft pick will result in this question being asked again, and more closeted NFL players taking more steps deeper into their own closets. I guarantee it.