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NFL questioned about sexual orientation discrimination

As fans of the Houston Texans are well aware, in a few weeks the National Football League will be holding its annual draft, giving NFL teams the opportunity to acquire the next Joe Montana or Walter Payton. Before this draft is held every year, all 32 NFL franchises meet for a week-long scouting combine to judge the incoming college talent.

This combine inspects each player's physical and personal attributes. With the latter, the most recent edition of the combine was particularly alarming from an employment law perspective.

As many people know, the Supreme Court is considering a case that will have major implications on the matter of marriage equality. In addition, the past NFL season saw numerous players openly support gay marriage and bring light to the issue in a sport that has not had an active player come out as gay.

Brendon Ayanbadejo, a former Baltimore Raven who is an advocate for same-sex marriage, criticized a Maryland delegate who wrote a letter to the Ravens asking them to "take action" against "such expressions" (an employment law issue in multiple regards, as that could qualify as trying to inhibit free speech); and the punter for the Minnesota Vikings, Chris Kluwe, has been a staunch supporter of gay marriage, and was very vocal in this past season.

All of this is background to the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine, where numerous players were seemingly grilled about their sexual preference during interviews with executives from NFL franchises. One player remembers a line of questioning that went like this: "Do you have a girlfriend? Are you married? Do you like girls?"

As a result, New York's attorney general has asked the NFL to clarify this situation and take a stand against workplace discrimination. First and foremost, it is illegal for any employer to discriminate against a prospective or current employee because of their sexual orientation; but such a line of questioning is also inappropriate during a job interview.

The NFL is not immune to workplace discrimination just because it is a sport, or just because it is a multi-billion dollar enterprise.

Source: CNN, "New York pushes NFL on discrimination due to sexual orientation," March 14, 2013

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