Goodell should draw a clear line


Roger Goodell's reaction of "good for him" to the news Sunday that Michael Sam had acknowledged he was gay was a nice wave of the pompoms for the All-American defensive end from Missouri who's about to enter the NFL draft. But it's important that Goodell, who has an openly gay brother, go further and show more leadership.

As the recent ugliness and confusion about the "bullying" scandal involving Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin of the Dolphins showed, the league was already crying out for a further codification of its workplace rules on issues such as diversity and hazing.

Sam's impending arrival in the league (he's projected to go anywhere from the third to the seventh round of the draft) just makes it more incumbent on Goodell to make it clear to every last team official and every last player on every last roster in the league that creating a hostile environment for anyone because of his differences won't be tolerated.

Then Goodell should do this for Michael Sam: Give him his office and cell phone numbers and publicly say, "If Sam has a problem, he knows to come directly to me."

NBA commissioner David Stern did exactly that nearly three decades ago when women were still rather new to the sports writing profession and a few were covering his league full time. (I was one of them. I was the Detroit Free Press' beat writer for what became the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons teams.) And the effect of Stern's proactive gesture was powerful.

The NBA had only one or two of the ugly locker room scenes that baseball or the NFL more regularly had with female reporters back then. In Stern's league, I didn't have to endure the likes of then-Tigers manager Sparky Anderson -- the jocular "elfin" manager to everyone else -- going on local television and saying, "Any lady that goes in the locker room ain't no lady to me" or the likes of Jack Morris profanely acting out, as he did to another female reporter a few years later.

I didn't have to go to a Detroit Lions game with my newspaper's attorney and go through the farce of trying to enter the locker room like everyone else after the game -- knowing I would be stopped -- so the attorney could witness what happened, then tell the team that if it didn't give me and our female sports photographer the equal access that had already been affirmed by other courts, the paper might sue.

That night, a leering colleague who knew what was going on made a point to walk across the press box and ask me if I was the "token" girl. And I looked at him and sweetly said, "Yes. And you know, I really wasn't sure I was going to make it today." Pause. "I have horrible cramps."

He blanched, meandered away and never asked me anything impolitic again. A lot of the things that were said then about female sports writers resemble the things being said about Sam now -- or women and gays in the military, for that matter. He'll be a distraction. ? His mere presence will skew or destroy the work environment. ? He won't be able to control his sexual impulses. (As if the voluminous texting between Incognito and Martin was about anything but girls and sex ? when they weren't exchanging gay epithets. Such frequent invoking of heterosexual privilege -- to be as bad as I wanna be -- while gays are expected to remain chaste is a wondrous thing to behold.)

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...