Bigotry in the NFL
Manti Te’o’s sexual orientation is not our business
Todd Colin Vaughan
Wow, that Manti Te’o story is pretty wild, eh?
In case you forgot how to read, it’s the story about a Notre Dame college linebacker who was the al- leged victim of an elaborate hoax involving a woman he knew as “Lennay Kekua” — his girlfriend — who supposedly died of leukemia the same day Te’o’s grandmother passed away.
Te’o, in fact, only knew Kekua online and never actually met the woman, who turned out to be a fabrication.
The person who orchestrated the hoax was actually a man named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, who admitted to making up Kekua because he was in love with Te’o.
Needless to say, a bizarre and ongoing story that many members of the media —including Bleacher Report, Deadspin and even Fox News — suggested may have been a publicity stunt to garner NFL draft attention, and to fuel the Heisman Trophy campaign for Te’o.
And now, when most observers thought this couldn’t be any weirder, Mike Florio of Profootballtalk.com reported on the Dan Patrick Radio Show that NFL teams want to know whether Te’o is gay.
Florio said NFL scouts “just want to know. They want to know because in an NFL locker room, it’s a different world. It shouldn’t be that way.”
You are right Mike Florio: it shouldn’t be that way.
The most appalling part of this story is that cowardly unnamed NFL sources think simply saying an NFL locker room is “a different world” is enough to allow such blatant homophobia.
The sports world is, alas, caught up in a web similar to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy used by the United States military, a policy that dehumanizes those outside of the heteronormative paradigm and forces people to live lies in order to fit into certain social constructions.
Te’o has since told Katie Couric of ABC News that he is not gay. “Far from it,” he said.
His comment has also been criticized on social media as homophobic.
In any case, the fact that we, as a society, demand to know the sexual orientation of those living in the limelight is disgusting.
Like Florio said, it shouldn’t matter; but we continually sensationalize people’s sexual orientation and force them to publicly come out.
What information does this provide us? Why does who people love matter to the general public? What good does it do?
The answer to all these questions is none. It shouldn’t matter to us, it doesn’t matter to the general public and it does us no better to know.
Te’o is football player that got caught in an — admittedly confusing — hoax that is news- worthy due to its peculiar na- ture, and that it may have been specifically designed to garner media attention. His sexual orientation shouldn’t be attached to that issue.
It seems to be the in-vogue thing to demand celebrities let go of any right to a private life. To an extent that may be the trade-off of fame, but the western fixation with sexual orientation is getting a little tired for the year 2013.
The locker room is no differ- ent than a boardroom, bathroom or coffee house. People have the right to reveal what they want about themselves, assuming their actions have no legal ramifications.
To demand the sexual orientation of Manti Te’o is immoral, and these NFL sources that claim the NFL locker room environment has different rules that somehow justify homophobia should be taught a lesson about how subtle bigotry is still bigotry.