ALBANY, New York — New York state’s top legal official urged the NFL on Thursday to investigate whether potential players were improperly asked about their sexual orientation during the league’s annual skills exhibition for incoming college players, which he said would be illegal in New York.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman asked National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell to schedule a meeting on the matter.
“We ask that the league immediately issue a statement that any form of discrimination or harassment on the basis of sexual orientation by league teams or players against potential recruits or players constitutes a violation of state, local and, in some cases, contractor law and will not be tolerated,” Schneiderman said in a letter dated Thursday and released to news organizations.
There has never been an openly gay player in any of North America’s major pro sports leagues, though a few athletes have come out after retirem ent.
The question of NFL players being openly gay became a hot topic before this year’s annual Super Bowl championship, when a San Francisco 49ers player made remarks about gays that were called offensive, for which he later apologized.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league was already looking into the issue and would discuss it at its meeting next week in Phoenix.
“Like all employers, our teams are expected to follow applicable federal, state and local employment laws,” the NFL said in a Feb. 27 statement. “It is league policy to neither consider nor inquire about sexual orientation in the hiring process. In addition, there are specific protections in our collective bargaining agreement with the players that prohibit discrimination against any player, including on the basis of sexual orientation.”
It concluded: “Any team or employee that inquires about impermissible subjects or makes an employment decision based on such factors is subject to leag ue discipline.”
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He did not identify who asked him.
Since then, Michigan’s Denard Robinson and Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell each have indicated in radio interviews that they were asked similar questions.
Schneiderman reminded Goodell that discrimination based on sexual orientation is illegal in New York and in at least 23 other states where the NFL’s 32 teams are based.
In February, DeMaurice Smith, the head of the NFL players association, said in a statement that, “I know that the NFL agrees that these types of questions violate the law, our CBA and player rights.”
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