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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 28 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 09
Mixed signals this week for Gays and the NFL
Section One
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Mixed signals this week for Gays and the NFL

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

When news that college football star Michael Sam came out as Gay hit the Internet a few weeks ago the chatter reached a fever pitch. He was hailed as a hero, people said he was brave and a trailblazer, and our own openly Gay Mayor, Ed Murray, hinted that Seattle would be a great place for Sam to come and play for the Super Bowl champion Seahawks. All of a sudden bashing Gay men who wanted to play football professionally was out and being accepting and wanting a Gay guy on your team was in. Just like that and the world was changed.

Or was it? Maybe it was the hysteria around such a monumental announcement that, in all the euphoria of feeling even closer to that dream the community has of reaching equality, but it did seem like that was it. We are winning marriage across the country and people like us now.

Theres just one thing. It is never, ever just that simple. Evidence of this could be found this week when a few days ago, lobbyist Jack Burkman, the CEO of Burkman LLC, announced a plan to push a bill banning Gay people from playing in the National Football League.

It was a bizarre oddity from the beginning, I must admit. The supposed bill had no language, no supporters, and is likely unconstitutional in a strict legal sense, and it was never particularly clear how this effort was going to proceed, let alone succeed.

But Burkman said he was motivated by openly Gay Missouri football star Michael Sam's decision to enter the NFL draft, and his concern that society was sliding in the wrong direction.

Weve heard, and seen this before, havent we? But this guy seems especially idiotic. Even without supporters he soldiered on and dont you know - he even got a few people to listen, eventually.

Burkman says that he will not back down from his quest to keep Gay men out of professional football.

He said It is about re-enforcing and protecting American values of decency and civility. Should NFL players shower with NFL cheerleaders? Certainly not. Given this, why should straight NFL players shower with gay NFL players?

The fact is, straight NFL players have been showering with Gay colleagues since at least 1964, based upon what we know about the seven athletes who have come out as Gay after playing in the NFL. That is just literally a fact. There is no way you can deny these men existed, played pro ball for the league, and came out as Gay after they retired.

Michael Sam actually responded via Twitter this week saying, Jack Burkman is going to need a DeLorean, not some bogus bill, if he wants to prevent Gay athletes from being in the locker room.

Many people, including other NFL players, spoke out against the idea of a bill banning Gays from the NFL.

On Tuesday, Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews said that a Gay player would be welcome in Green Bay's locker room.

I really don't think it'll be an issue, Matthews told Boomer and Carton. I think it will be something more for the fans to use as fodder just like they would make fun of any other player. ...

The unique thing about the NFL locker room is that every player can attest to that we don't see race, religion or sexual orientation. We see simply 'Can you help us win ball games? Can you help us produce on the football field?'

Recently the NFL has made a sharp change from being anti-Gay to pro-Gay.

In fact, over the weekend, when it was not yet known if Arizona Governor Jan Brewer would veto Senate Bill 1062, which, as the Arizona Republic noted, would expand religious protections in state law in a way that critics claim would be discriminatory against Gays and Lesbians, business leaders in the state were already concerned that the bill's passage would prompt the NFL to move next years Super Bowl out of Glendale, Arizona.

Those opposing its passage included the Super Bowl Host Committee.

On that matter we have heard loud and clear from our various stakeholders that adoption of this legislation would not only run contrary to that goal but deal a significant blow to the state's economic growth potential. We do not support this legislation, the committee said.

The NFL also issued a statement on the matter.

Our policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or any other improper standard, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. We are following the issue in Arizona and will continue to do so should the bill be signed into law, but will decline further comment at this time.

And that is not just hot air. The NFL's biggest game has been relocated before. The league moved the 1993 Super Bowl to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, after Arizona voters failed to approve a state holiday honoring Martin Luther King in November 1990.

State business leaders also sent a letter Monday asking Brewer to veto the bill.

We are troubled by any legislation that could be interpreted to permit discrimination against a particular group of people in the marketplace, the letter said. The legislation is also already clearly having a negative effect on our tourism industry, one of the largest sectors of the economy. The bill could also harm job creation efforts and our ability to attract and retain talent.

The Greater Phoenix Economic Council and the Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association spoke out against the damage the bill's passage could do as well.

This legislation has the potential of subjecting the Super Bowl, and major events surrounding it, to the threats of boycotts, GPEC Chairman James Lundy, CEO of Alliance Bank of Arizona, and Barry Broome, president and CEO of GPEC wrote in the letter. We have already been contacted by four companies we are working on with the Arizona Commerce Authority who will look to locate elsewhere if this legislation is signed.

Luckily, Brewer did not sign the bill.

But it wasnt just crazy lobbyists throwing around Michael Sams name this week. In a particularly bizarre foot-in-mouth moment, the disgraced celebrity chef Paula Deen compared her struggle to repair her tarnished reputation, after admitting she used the n-word, to the NFL prospects fight to be seen simply as a football player - not the token Gay football player.

I feel like 'embattled' or 'disgraced' will always follow my name. It's like that black football player who recently came out, Deen, 67, told People magazine. He said, 'I just want to be known as a football player. I don't want to be known as a Gay football player.' I know exactly what he's saying.

Uhm & what? If that was her idea of smoothing things over, she failed miserably. Really, their struggles are nothing alike. Her struggles are about losing business partners and money because she got caught saying racist things. Not about the intersection of being a black American male who is an athlete who happens to be Gay.

When I woke up each morning, it was like my world was crashing down again, she said.

But nearly nine months later, Deen is trying to rejuvenate her business with a new company, Paula Deen Ventures, which recently received a $75 million to $100 million investment, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Deen says that the scandal involved facing her greatest fear.

I used to have dreams that I lost everything, she told People magazine. But then you wake up and realize you are still alive.

In contrast to all of that crazy, here is what Michael Sam told reporters February 22: I just wish you guys would see me as Michael Sam the football player instead of Michael Sam the Gay football player.

Back to Jack Burkman for a moment. According to TIME magazine, DC Solar Solution, a California company that paid Burkman $30,000 in the fourth quarter of 2013, said it was severing ties. DC Solar does not condone or support Mr. Burkmans homophobic views, and since learning about his misguided efforts to write legislation banning Gay athletes from the NFL, we have ended our relationship with him, wrote DC Solar executives Jeffery Carpoff and Paulette Carpoff in a statement. DC Solar values diversity within our company and within our communities, and we do not tolerate discrimination of any sort. As a company working to address issues about our countrys future, we have no intention of working with those stuck in the past.

Unfortunately, this isnt Burkmans first anti-Gay effort. On his website he links to his radio show where he encourages families to yank their children out of the Boy Scouts after that group decided to allow Gay scouts, but not Gay scout leaders.

As for his wonky yet-to-be-written anti-Gay bill; he claims to have at least 36 House members and five Senators interested in the NFL legislation.

But the truth is lobbyists cannot introduce bills, and Burkman has not identified even one member of Congress that will. Given the fact that Democrats control the Senate, there is little chance that the bill would pass even if it is introduced, and it would face an almost certain veto from President Obama.

And, as if this story couldnt get any odder, Seattle Gay News learned this week that Burkmans biggest critic is his openly Gay brother, Seattle anesthesiologist Dr. James Burkman, who tweeted Tuesday at his brother: Having your head up your ass seems quite Gay to me. No?

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Arizona Governor vetoes anti-Gay bill
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Federal judge strikes Texas ban on same-sex marriage
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Oregon and the new Jim Crow - Same-sex marriage fight shifts to discrimination measure
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BREAKING NEWS
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