US: NFL agrees to better protection for gay players against discrimination

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The US National Football League (NFL) has agreed, in an unprecedented move, to better protect gay players against discrimination and harassment, the New York Attorney General has said.

Eric Schneiderman, made the announcement on Tuesday that he had reached an agreement with the NFL, to promote a “culture of inclusion” for gay players.

He announced that the deal he had reached included the hanging of posters in locker rooms to highlight the NFL’s anti-discrimination policies.

“My office is committed to ensuring equal protection under the law for all employees and job applicants no matter where they work,” he said.

“And I applaud the NFL for working cooperatively with our office to address these issues. Together we are sending a powerful message that discrimination and harassment will not be tolerated in any form.”

As well as hanging the posters in all locker rooms, a more in-depth version of the policy will be distributed to all 32 NFL teams. It will also be included as part of the rookie symposium. A statement from Commissioner Roger Goodell will also be included as part of the player handbooks.

An NFL spokesman said that its policies had not changed, only the way it is communicated.

“We reviewed our long-standing anti-discrimination policy with our teams at our league meeting in March,” said NFL spokesman Greg Aiello. “We more recently met with the New York Attorney General’s office to reiterate that policy and our plans to reinforce it to our players, teams and staff in the near future.”

Another more in-depth part of the nondiscrimination policy guarantees that complaints concerning discrimination based on sexual orientation would be reviewed and investigated, and in these cases, confidentiality is ensured.

The NFL will also periodically report to the Attorney General’s office in order to review its progress in maintaining a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination.

In the US there is currently no openly gay player in the National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association or National Hockey League.

Despite the NFL saying it had found no “specific violations”, after February’s combine, three prospective draft picks said they had been asked questions about their sexual orientation.

Alan Gendreau, a gay American footballer has expressed hopes of being drafted by an NFL team, and could be the first openly-gay player the industry has anticipated for some time.

Ayanbadejo earlier in April said he knew of four gay NFL players who were looking to coordinate coming out, in order to face any potential backlash together.

Other reports have suggested that, for several years, a currently active NFL player has been openly gay to many teammates, and coaches.

The National Hockey League earlier this month become the first major professional team sport in the US to announce a formal partnership with You Can Play, an advocacy group aiming to reduce homophobia. No steps as significant as today’s agreement had previously been taken in the NFL.