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Question For Green Bay Packers Assistant Coach Alex Van Pelt Regarding Gay Players In Locker Room

February 12, 2014

I was very heartened to hear the words from Green Bay Packers Coach Mike McCarthy concerning Michael Sam, the college football star and NFL draft prospect who came out as gay.  Coach McCarthy called Sam courageous and talented.  I do not follow college football so I can not speak to his talent, but there is no doubt Sam is one very courageous young man.

There is also no doubt that McCarthy is to be applauded for making a positive statement, and something tells me that it was an honest one, too.  Not just being politically correct, but sincere.

But there was one phrase from Assistant Coach Alex Van Pelt that made me unsure how deep the openness extends within the Packer operation.

“If anybody can come in and help us win games and be successful — black, white, yellow, straight, gay — I don’t think it matters. As long as you’re a good person and you’re respectful in the locker room to each other, then you can help us win on Sundays and are welcome.”

I am not sure if each player is judged in the locker room on being respectful or not, but if seemed very pointed to have the comment thrown in when the topic concerned a gay player.

The obvious first thought is who thinks just because one is of a certain sexual persuasion that means there is no sense of decorum and propriety, or that in this case every male becomes desirable.  Lets be honest about this and say many of the football players on the field each Sunday are hardly worth looking at dressed.

I would say that a gay man with better tastes might be the one at the disadvantage when confronted with over-weight naked men in the showers.  Just who is showing the disrespect to who?  The straight myth among many men that everyone else is ‘attracted to me’ is pure folly.  That might be the better lesson Pelt imparted to his team, than make some point about a gay player in the locker room needing to show respect.

Second, knowing how deep the NFL homophobia runs might it not be more the case that the other players would show disrespect to their gay teammate?   Pelt might need to be reminded that respect is a two-way street.

I also might be coming down too hard on Pelt, but reading his words leads me to the conclusion that perhaps there is some need for a little more sensitivity training in Green Bay.

This week Frank Bruni had a guest column in The New York Times.  It is worth the time to read.

When did the locker room become such a delicate ecosystem? Is it inhabited by athletes or orchids? And how is it that gladiators who don’t flinch when a 300-pound mountain of flesh in shoulder pads comes roaring toward them start to quiver at the thought of a homosexual under a nearby nozzle? They may be physical giants, but at least a few of them are psychological pipsqueaks.

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