February 3, 2012
By, LZ Granderson
It’s been about 10 years since former NFL lineman Esera Tuaolo told HBO’s “Real Sports” that he was gay. A lot has changed in the game since then.
Back then Tuaolo, who played in Super Bowl XXXIII, said he stayed in hiding for fear he could lose his career. Today, the owners of both the New York Giants and New England Patriots have publicly come out in support of marriage equality.
Back then one-time teammate Sterling Sharpe, in reaction to Tuaolo’s news, said an openly gay player wouldn’t make it to his next game. Today, Section 1 of the NFL’s new collective bargaining agreement reads: “No Discrimination: There will be no discrimination in any form against any player by the Management Council, any Club or by the NFLPA [NFL Players Association] because of race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or activity or lack of activity on behalf of the NFLPA.”
Over the years I have used my space on this website to chastise the sports world for dragging its collective feet when it comes to the topic of gays and lesbians in sports. But just as I have criticized boldly in the past, I also need to boldly applaud the progress made, particularly in the NFL.
Shortly after the lockout was lifted and the CBA ratified, NFLPA spokesman George Atallah said: “We certainly believe, speaking for the Players Association, that we have a tremendous social and cultural impact. We definitely understand the effect that we have on society and culture, and we feel we have a responsibility to have very high standards. With something like discrimination of any kind, we just want to make sure we are a symbol for good.”
There are people who are irritated by columns of this nature because they only want to talk about box scores, and that’s fine. Believe it or not, I don’t like focusing on the world’s problems all the time either. But it is important to celebrate our victories. And so, for those of us who are interested in the organic intersection of sports, society and politics, this NFL season, this Super Bowl, marks another significant moment in our culture’s history to celebrate.