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Just when it seemed the National Football League and its playing personnel might be becoming a bit too enlightened on the topic of sexual equality, up stepped Seattle Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons to skew the pigskin globe off its axis again.
There have been many words to describe the still-hypothetical figure that is the FOGFP (First Openly Gay Football Player): brave, role model, historic.
"Selfish," however, is not one of them.
"Who on God's earth is this person saying he’s coming out of the closet in the NFL?" Clemons tweeted in a series of messages over the weekend. He followed that up with an explanation: "I'm not against anyone but I think it's a selfish act. They're just trying to make themselves bigger than the team."
Oh Chris, where to start?
Selfishness and sexual openness are rarely shoveled into the same category, but just as it is correct to expect respect for human rights so too is Clemens entitled to have his views considered with an open mind.
Presumably his intention was to suggest that by coming out a gay player would become a source for overwhelming public and media attention, and that said attention would distract his teammates and take away from their collective performance.
Indeed, if a player does come out and then seek to continue his career (as was recently reported by CBS Sports), the media scrutiny will be intense. News outlets from around the world will flock to the practice facility and the clamor for FOGFP's post-game words will lead to caution flags thrown in the locker room.
It will be the story of the moment, of the day, of the week.
All until there is a dumb call on a game-changing play or a horrible injury or the Cowboys do something crazy like pay someone less than he's really worth or Tom Brady cheats on his Uggs with a pair of Ferragamos.
And while the issue and the story and the player won't be forgotten, it won't be on top of every bulletin or even the first pit stop of bar-room chit-chat any more.
Being gay and out won't make the player bigger than the team – unless he's one of those handful of NFL players who really is bigger than his team. It won't detract from a 14-2 season or make a 2-14 one any less ugly, especially if the player in question is a low to mid-radar guy, a special teams workhorse or even a journeyman defensive end.
If exercising your right to be publicly open about a key aspect of personal liberty is "selfish," why not clamp down on those players who celebrate a good play by spreading their arms wide as if to say, "Look at me."
The NFL doesn't do everything right, but evidence suggests that its efforts to promote equality are both genuine and increasingly effective. Fortunately, for every Chris Clemons and Chris Culliver there is an outspoken proponent of LBGT rights like Brandon Ayanbadejo or Chris Kluwe. Or perhaps even more important, a Rob Gronkowski or Arian Foster or Dwayne Bowe – men who take a more simple approach and correctly state that the game and performance on the field and in practice is the overwhelming criteria for evaluating a teammate's worth.
"What I'm looking for in a teammate is the guy who can help me win," Foster recently told Yahoo! Sports. "You can't be picky about who he is or where he's from or what he looks like … or if he is gay or straight."
That not selfish. That's smart.
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