The National Football League has set a disappointing standard by refusing to implement its conduct policy when a player blatantly engages in public displays of homophobia. Cleveland Browns linebacker Tank Carder recently used Twitter to call a fan a “faggot” and further explain that, “I don’t agree with being gay or lesbian at all, but saying faggot doesn’t make me a homophobe.”
The Browns responded by saying they do not condone such comments and that they “have spoken with Tank and have made this very clear to him.” In his “apology,” he explained that he is “sorry if you were offended.” He also tried to explain that he thought the person he called a faggot “was bashing team sports. big misunderstanding.” Carder has done nothing else to rectify his offensive remarks, and now the NFL is not doing anything about it either.
The NFL said it had “addressed it with the player” and “made clear to the player that it was unacceptable,” pointing out that he had apologized. But that’s it, in stark contrast to impressive steps that other professional sports organizations have taken in similar situation. Reporting on the Carder controversy, OutSports’ Cyd Zeigler Jr. pointed out the disparities:
- Last year, when Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant called a referee a “fucking fag,” the NBA fined him $100,000.
- In September, when Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar wore the words “tu ere maricon” (“you are a faggot”) in his eye black, his team suspended him for three games and donated his salary from those games to GLAAD and the You Can Play Project for LGBT athletes.
- When Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell heckled fans with homophobic taunts last year, MLB suspended him for two weeks, levied an unspecified fine, and required him to undergo sensitivity training.
- When Seattle Sounder Marc Burch called an opponent a gay slur earlier this month, Major League Soccer suspended him for three games, levied an unspecified fine, and required him to undergo sensitivity training.
- MLS also recently ended its partnership with the Boy Scouts of America over the group’s anti-gay discriminatory policies.
The distinction is galling. Apparently, the NFL is only concerned about its public image when criminal charges are involved. As one of the most prominent sports in the country, the NFL should hold itself and its players to a higher standard. Punishments for such behavior send a message, and sensitivity training helps minimize the likelihood of future anti-gay outbursts.