Manti Te’o, The NFL And Gays

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o runs a drill Feb. 25 during the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis AP photo/Dave Martin

This is a little uncomfortable for me. All my friends would tell you that sports – and especially football – are not my thing. But this Manti Te’o “controversy” has got me a little riled up, and here’s the Chicago Tribune headline that did it: “Ex-Bears QB Miller: Religion a barrier for gays in locker room.”

Former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim Miller said, “There are some religions that are just not going to accept a gay individual in the locker room.”


Manti Te’o, for the record, has stated he is not gay. And I think his response to all the inquiries should be first, that his sexual orientation is nobody’s business. And second, if he were gay, so what? Would that make him less of a player? Would it mean he is a bad person?

No – on both counts. I’m pretty sure some religions are a barrier for acceptance of gays in society and in locker rooms, but I don’t like painting with such broad strokes. Do all people of religion refuse to play, work, study, associate with people who are gay? Of course not.

I know plenty of religious people who are completely accepting.

And whose religion are we talking about here?

I was under the impression that, this being America and all, there’s more than one religion represented in locker rooms. Christians, Muslims … I’ll bet there are Unitarians, Buddhists and Scientologists. And, hmm, maybe even some agnostics and a few atheists. Am I wrong?

Let’s try substituting another word for “gay” in this sentence: “There are some religions that are just not going to accept a black/atheist/Muslim/Asian/ red-haired individual in the locker room.” Would any of those be acceptable?

To his credit, Miller goes on to say that he would not have cared if a team-mate were gay. Good for him. I’ll bet there are many more open-minded players like him all across the country.

No one is thick enough to suggest every football player in the history of the NFL has been straight. Yet here we are – in 2013 – trying to avoid acknowledging that big, ol’, gay “elephant in the locker room” staring fearfully at the closet door. If everyone’s real quiet about it, they might let him play. If no one knows, maybe he can live a normal life, just like everyone else. Well, OK, normal except for having to lie about who you are.

Te’o has so much potential as a player and as a human being. Hawaii has been proud of this local kid. He was and is one of our own. It would be shameful and disappointing if members of our ohana, we who pride ourselves on our aloha for all, were to rescind that love and support for a young man because of his real or perceived sexual orientation.

The NFL draft dates are April 25-27. I had to look them up (after I looked up what the draft actually is). Teams are supposedly asking about Te’o’s orientation, not necessarily to reject him if he’s gay, but because they want to know what to expect. Some have even speculated that the NFL “powers that be” would like to use the Te’o situation as a catalyst for change and a way to crack the homophobic environment in the league. If so – good.

I just hope this young man can survive the process.