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.

Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe was on the cover of Out magazine.

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.

Categories: Beliefs

Michael J. O'Loughlin

Michael J. O'Loughlin

Michael J. O’Loughlin writes about religion and politics from Washington, D.C., paying close attention to the role of the Catholic Church in public life. His writing has appeared in Religion & Politics, the Jesuit magazine America, on BustedHalo.com, and in Duke Divinity School’s Faith & Leadership.

17 Comments

  1. If NFL players Kluwe and Ayanbadego and others have the right to express and support homosexual behavior and gay marriage, then other NFL players have the same right to publicly express OPPOSITION to those very same things.

    And Jim Miller is correct: Mike Florio and others, need to get used to the fact that religion-based opposition to gay marriage is NOT going to go away. Gay marriage is NOT compatible with Christianity, Islam, biblical Judaism, etc. It’s wrong, regardless of religion or philosophy.

    • Doc, when you employ a cross section of the population you should expect that everyone get along, regardless of their religion or sexual orientation. Failure to follow any such equality measures as put forth by the NFL should be met with swift disciplinary actions.

      And also, Doc, you need to get used to the fact that rights for the gay members of our society are going to be elevated to be the same as everyone else’s.

    • You have every right to publicly express opposition to those same things.

      What he is suggesting is that religious players may not handle it well and may result to cruel behavior in the locker room, beyond just words.

      Gay marriage is not wrong. That’s your opinion.
      The government is a non-religious body and so all religious arguments are moot. They are not constitutional arguments, as it would be upholding the right of religious citizens above the rights of non-religious citizens.
      That would be an example of state-sanctioned religion. If you have interest in that, consider moving to Saudi Arabia.

      Right and wrong is generally determined by the ratio of negative to positive consequences. What benefits people is good, what hurts is bad, etc…

      Gay marriage has no negatives because what two people do with their lives is of no concern to you. Therefore it is morally right and hence not wrong.

      You have the right to disagree, not the right prevent equality. Otherwise you are reserving extra rights for yourself and it is on the same level as segregation. Separate is not equal.

    • Religion based opposition to anything not literally the same as the writings of men who were alive 2 – 4000 years ago, writing for their time in the language of their time, is exactly why people are leaving organized religion in droves. Even Christ said that the punitive law of the Old Testament had been fulfilled in him and was to be replaced by the law of love. But conservative and uninformed religions want to hang on to their power and hypocritically ignore that – at their peril. Their sheeple are waking up.
      The world will change whether religions like it or not. Look at the four state votes on equality in the last election in the USA after many states legislated against equality in the previous 8 – 10 years.

  2. The use of the term “homophobic” is misapplied for it communicates two things. First that opposition to homosexual culture or behavior is necessarily rooted in fear. And secondly that it is irrational.

    One can oppose homosexual behavior without being afraid of homosexuals. And one can oppose homosexual behavior without being irrational.

    The continued use of the term “homophobic” is a rhetorical technique to alter the perception of those opposed to acceptance of homosexual culture to manipulate public opinion through the manipulation of language, in this case labeling.

    • There is nothing rational with hating homosexuals.

      Nothing. Religion is faith based, therefore that does not count as rational. Arguing otherwise would imply religion is logical, if religion were logical there would be no faith, as faith requires an element of unknown.

    • You are correct about the word homophobia. In the past year, those wishing to express more accurately what that term homophobia has attempted to convey since its inception, use the word: “homonegative”. It is the evolution of language in action.

  3. Well, I think this is just a great thing. You can go around all you want saying, “I oppose same-sex marriage,” and no one will bat an eyelash, but suddenly we have people saying, “I am FOR same-sex marriage,” and everyone makes it into this huge big deal. “WHAT? HE SUPPORTS THAT? Oh my goodness, well I am just not going to watch him play football anymore.” “Oh, he opposes gay rights, who cares?” See what I mean?

  4. I’d just like to direct what I’m about to say at Doc Anthony first. Yes, everyone is entitled to their opinion and to voice it, thats not in question or under attack. Its the fact that people have those opinions, like you saying that homosexuality is wrong, that is being put into question.
    And Michael, homophobia can be best described as the equivalent to racism, just applied to sexuality. sexuality-ism doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Society is shifting to the majority believing that the LGBT community deserves the same rights and treatment as everyone else, like the constitution, or anyone with a sound moral compass will tell you. And if you want to give people who oppose the homosexual behavior and culture the same rights as homosexuals, please do so. They might suddenly realize that its not so great to discriminate when their marriage stops being recognized, they can get fired from their job for their sexuality in 29 states, and businesses can refuse them service for it in some places. Going through the same treatment that the LGBT community gets might give them a new view of the issue, because there are literally hundreds of rights that marriage alone would provide gay people that are currently un-recognized by the government. And to say that enforcing equality measures is about as far from a 1984 scenario as possible. Enforcing some form of racial or sexuality-based segregation fits the bill far better.
    Randall Reynolds, not ALL homophobia stems from religion, just a lot of it.

    Finally, on the off chance any of you actually come back and read these comments, this is coming a from a gay college athlete. We exist, I guarantee there are active professional athletes who are gay. Furthermore, its a safe bet that someone you know, possibly even a family member, is part of the LGBT community. Maybe consider how you would feel if your son or daughter was being discriminated against for any reason. It all stems from our differences, which we should be embracing instead of ridiculing each other for.

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