Scott Fujita on Prospects Being Asked About Relationships: “The Onus is on the NFL to Stand Up and Do the Right Thing.”March 1, 2013 – 9:00 am by Steven Cuce
The big question surrounding the NFL Combine has suddenly become about whether or not NFL locker rooms would “embrace” a gay teammate. Michigan standout Denard Robinson said he was asked about girls at the NFL Scouting Combine. Robinson also said he wasn’t asked directly whether or not he was straight or gay, but he was questioned about whether he had a girlfriend or was married.
For Scott Fujita, the topic of NFL locker rooms accepting gay players has been an issue that should have been resolved years ago. The Browns linebacker feels that gay players shouldn’t feel trapped about coming out. Here’s Fujita’s take on having a gay player in the locker room.
Scott Fujita joined 92.3 The Ticket in Cleveland with Bull & Fox to discuss the NFLPA taking the next step to help gay players feel comfortable about coming out with their sexuality, a gay player in the Browns locker room not being an issue, changing the culture of gay players in professional sports, coaches at the NFL combine asking players if they like girls and NFL GM’s being worried about drafting gay players because of the problems they may cause in the locker room.
What’s the next step for the NFLPA to get players comfortable about coming out with their sexuality?
“First of all I think what Domonique Foxworth wrote yesterday was fantastic. I reached out to him immediately after whatever he wrote. That’s what it takes. It takes more and more straight athletes to come out and show our support and that’s what it’s about. I think for far too long there was this perception, or I guess I would call it a misperception, that our locker rooms in the NFL are extremely homophobic and that could not be further from the truth. I was talking to a friend of mine who writes for Outsports a few years ago and at that time it was the perception. I said, ‘That’s not the case at all.’ I would argue that the overwhelming majority would be fine with having a teammate who was gay. I said the only way you are going to find out if that was the case if you start asking guys how they would feel about having a gay teammate. Outsports has done a great job of embarking on this mission of asking guys and I think he’s found that’s the case. The overwhelming majority would be completely fine with that. It’s important for closet gay athletes everywhere, not just at the professional level, but more importantly athletes at the younger level in high school and college, to understand they do have support around them and that they can come out and feel comfortable. And honestly, that is going to help save lives.”
Do you think a gay player in the Browns locker room would be an issue?
“It would not be an issue at all. Regarding what Ted Carter said and things are said at unfortunate times. I think it’s important not to be quick on somebody using these inappropriate words like ‘faggot’ with that person even being homophobic or discriminatory. A lot of times it’s just a common part of young men’s jargon and that’s the other part of it. We have to take this to the next level to eliminate that kind of discussion. Again, just because guys use words like that, a lot of guys don’t mean it to be harmful in any way. They don’t mean to be prejudice. Many cases they don’t understand what they’re saying could be harmful or offensive. In cases like that, I generally tend to take the guy to the side rather then lambaste him publicly cause I don’t think a lot can come from that. A lot of times it is about educating a guy and letting him know, ‘Hey, a lot of people might be affected by that. You have no idea if the guy in the locker next to you could be affected by that, so why not create an atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable to be who they are?'”
What’s it going to take to change the culture of gay players in professional sports?
“Well the conversation has evolved considerably just in the last three or four years since I have been talking about some of this stuff. I remember back in 2009 when the marriage equality act came out in Washington, it was kind of big news in some circles at the time. Here’s this football player talking about these issues, but by and large most people in the media didn’t know how to have that kind of conversation. And fast forward a couple of months at the end of that season, like at the Super Bowl, and a few periodicals wanted to talk about it. … I appreciate the conversation is being had. I appreciate the fact that more minds are being open to talking about this conversation, and in the very near future it’s going to be the point where this conversation won’t even need to be had. I tweeted this yesterday almost half jokingly, but there’s going to come a time in a couple of year from now where my daughters are actually going to look at me in the eye and say, ‘I can’t even believe you guys were having that conversation.’ I look forward to getting to that point.”
What do you think about coaches at the NFL combine asking players if they like girls, basically insinuating are they gay?
“Again, even with that, I wasn’t there for those conversations to hear or see what exactly happened. I try not to be quick to rush to judgement. … I try to pause when I read things like that, but again, I think that’s another case where perhaps as a coach maybe they were just talking like locker-room, tough-guy talk around a bunch of other meatheads in the room, and you never know what the context was. I’m not trying to excuse the behavior. It doesn’t make it right, but to me the onus is on the NFL to stand up and make a statement about this and to issue a memo to the clubs and really clearly define what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable. Certainly asking someone about their sexuality — first of all it’s against the law. Second of all, it’s absolutely a violation of our CBA and that’s where the NFL the onus is on them to do the right thing.”
Is an NFL GM going to be worried about drafting a player based on the trouble he may cause in the locker room if he is gay?
“Potentially. I think that is problematic. Again, we don’t want players to have to feel like they are closeted with the potential repercussions without getting drafted or getting into the locker room. I think in the locker room you are not going to have an issue. … It’ll bring some attention that is not football-focused. It’ll be another conversation they are going to have to have to prepare new press releases. All of that is short-term. Once a guy comes out, yeah, it’ll be very newsworthy. It’ll be a huge, huge breakthrough and then it’ll be another one and another one and another one. Then it’ll be just another guy in the locker room. So the sooner we get to that point, we can get past all the difficult things the PR staffs feel they might have and should be ashamed they even feel that way, but once we get over that first hurdle then everything should be just fine.”