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Ref: Daniel Goncalves/Cal Sport Media/ZUMA; Flag: Mike Flippo/Shutterstock; Rainbow: Rikke/Shutterstock. Photoillustration by Matt Connolly.
University of Missouri All-American defensive end Michael Sam shocked the sports world Sunday when he announced that he is gay. The National Football League has never had an openly gay player, and the timing of his announcement—just weeks before the league's so-called combine, when draft-eligible players like Sam are put through the paces in front of scouts and team executives—has been hailed as incredibly brave.
But as Kevin Drum noted Sunday night, a group of NFL front-office types had a different take. Several team executives anonymously questioned Sam's talent and pro prospects in a SI.com article published after his announcement. Sample line, from a personnel assistant: "I don't think football is ready for [an openly gay player] just yet. In the coming decade or two, it's going to be acceptable, but at this point in time it's still a man's-man game." Worse still, some of them argued that teams would lower Sam on their draft boards, or not draft him at all, simply because he's gay.
Is that legal? Do state and local laws protect potential draftees from discrimination based on sexual orientation? And what about the NFL's own nondiscrimination policy? Here's a brief explainer: