Former Chicago Bears’ quarterback Jim Miller raised eyebrows this week when he suggested that religion may be the reason there are no openly gay professional athletes in the NFL. From the Chicago Tribune:
“There are some religions that are just not going to accept a gay individual in the locker room,” Miller told “The McNeil and Spiegel Show” on WSCR-AM 670. “So now, are you as an organization going to bring that element into your locker room and think everything is going to be OK?
“Last time I checked, whether it’s Christianity or Muslims or other religions that are out there, they’re just not going to accept it. They’re just not. It’s just not realistic for Mike Florio or any progressive or liberal to think that everything is going to be OK in the locker room and we should all just wise up and accept it.”
He was responding to reports claiming that some NFL franchises are asking, perhaps illegally, about their prospects’ sexual orientation.
But today we learned that two National Football League players, the Minnesota Vikings’ Chris Kluwe and the Baltimore Ravens’ Brendon Ayanbadejo, filed an amicus brief seeking to block the implementation of California’s ban on same-sex marriage, Prop 8. In it, they cite the power of professional sports to shape culture, in both positive and negative ways. They write that while there is much progress to make,
many professional athletes are speaking up—both to clear the way for any teammates who may be gay and closeted, and from an understanding of how even seemingly minor acts by professional athletes can reverberate with the public. Tolerance is becoming the message in locker rooms and from teams that recognize they cannot countenance use of pointless slurs like “faggot,” “queer,” and “gay.” Regardless the intent with which those terms are spoken, they classify a group and particular people as synonymous with the lesser, and professional athletes are beginning to understand that.
While I have no idea what point Jim Miller was trying to make, and my knowledge of football locker rooms is admittedly limited to my time playing in high school, Kluwe and Ayanbadejo demonstrate that the culture of homophobia in the NFL might be changing. If Miller was trying to suggest that it’s not possible for Christians or Muslims to be accepting and affirming of LGBT individuals, he’s mistaken. A majority of Americans now favor same-sex marriage and of those, many are devout, faithful, practicing members of various religious traditions.