The National Football League is investigating allegations that teams may have broken the law at February’s scouting combine. In the wake of the Manti Te’o scandal, at least one team reportedly asked a potential draftee about his sexual orientation and relationship status.
The NFL has notoriously lagged behind when its comes to acceptance of homosexuality. However, NLF teams must comply with federal and state discrimination laws because they are employers.
Under federal employment law, it is unlawful to discriminate against any person because of that person’s race, national origin, religion, sex, age, and disability. Almost half the states in the country have additional laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Thus, asking a job applicant a question specifically relating to one of those characteristics can violate the law.
At the NFL combine, teams routinely conduct interviews as part of the player assessment process. Colorado standout Nick Kasa told ESPN Radio in Denver that he was asked a number of inappropriate questions, including “Do you have a girlfriend? Are you married? Do you like girls?”
Since news of the questions broke, the NFL appears to be making all of the right moves to avoid a costly lawsuit. “Like all employers, our teams are expected to follow applicable federal, state and local employment laws,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in a statement to NFL.com. “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. We will look into the report on the questioning of Nick Kasa at the Scouting Combine. Any team or employee that inquires about impermissible subjects or makes an employment decision based on such factors is subject to league discipline.”
The NFL is smart to investigate the situation quickly and thoroughly. The last thing the league needs is another legal scandal.