Mike Florio, from Pro Football Talk and NFL Sports, reports that several teams are trying to find out if Mant Te’o is gay before they draft him. If the report is correct, any team actively investigating the sexuality of a potential employee would be violating federal law.
The Te’o is gay rumor started in January when it was discovered that the Notre Dame linebacker’s Internet girlfriend didn’t really die because she never existed. The make believe girlfriend was a prank, a con or a cover. The suspicions that Te’o used the story to hide his sexuality persist, even after he told Katie Couric that he is not gay.
Fast forward to this week when Te’o showed up at the NFL combines to try an impress future employers, but didn’t. Te’o ran the 40 yard dash in 4.8 seconds; fast for normal human beings, but lumbering for an NFL pro prospect. Te’o’s stock plummeted, possibly out of the first round and into the second. According to Florio, it’s not just the turtle on the track that hurt Te’o, but the elephant in the room. Any team that picks the Notre Dame defensive star and Heisman Trophy runner-up, want to know what they are in for both on and off the field.
You may say, “It’s none of their business if he is gay.” But consider this, there is not one openly gay player in any of the four major professional leagues, the NFL, NBA, NHL or MLB, and no one has ever come out while they were still playing. According to Florio, teams may not want the distraction in the media or in the locker room.
Manti Te’o says he is straight and we should take his word for it purely because it doesn’t matter. Either he can play in the NFL or he can’t play, that’s what matters. If he is gay, we don’t need to know unless he chooses to tell us.
I do believe the first pro player to come out will be surrounded by public support, if not locker room and team support. It will take someone with courage and the right temperament. The Manti Te’o whispers prove that it does need to happen, because once a player comes out and the controversy subsides. It will die forever. Gay America is still waiting for its Jackie Robinson.