The NFL Combine is a week-long test for potential new professional football players. Players have their physical skills evaluated through a number of exhausting tests and their mental abilities are evaluated through tests and interview questions designed to catch players off-guard. This year, former Louisiana State University runningback Derrius Guice was asked if he was gay in one of these interviews. And that’s not the first time this inappropriate question was asked. What can we do to end NFL Combine homophobia?
Speaking on the SiriusXM show Late Hits, Guice described his experience. He said:
It was pretty crazy. Some people are really trying to get in your head and test your reaction…. I go in one room, and a team will ask me do I like men, just to see my reaction. I go in another room, they’ll try to bring up one of my family members or something and tell me, “Hey, I heard your mom sells herself. How do you feel about that?”
In Guice’s case, he wasn’t disturbed. He said, “It was a great experience. You’re being watched and tested the whole time.” However, even if Guice himself wasn’t bothered, the question is particularly problematic, and it’s emblematic of the problem professional sports has with homophobia.
This isn’t the first time teams have asked about a player’s homosexuality. Two years ago, New York Giants cornerback Eli Apple was asked the same question. Though the NFL publicly condemned the question, the organization took no disciplinary action. In fact, the coach who asked Apple, Marquand Manuel, was promoted a year later.
Questions like this have a chilling effect on players. Ryan O’Callaghan, an openly gay former NFL player said he was disgusted. When he went through the NFL Draft, he was completely closeted. O’Callaghan said, “It would have scared the shit out of me. I played football as a cover for being gay, and I thought that kind of stuff would have never gotten asked in the NFL.”
Many commentators are calling for the team and coach to be named and shamed; Cyd Zeigler of Outsports argues the team should lose a draft pick. Perhaps the NFL Combine should be retired all together. Most experts agree that it’s a poor test of whether or not a player will do well.
What do you think about Derrius Guice’s experience with NFL Combine homophobia? Let us know in the comments!
Featured photo by Brian Spurlock/USA Today Sports