KERRY RHODES (AP Photo)
by Stampp Corbin
San Diego — The recent “scandal” concerning NFL football player, Kerry Rhodes, has many in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community on high alert. Rhodes, an NFL player who is currently a free agent, has been “outed” by a reputed lover Russell “Hollywood” Simpson.
Simpson was motivated by Rhodes denial that he was gay in an interview. Simpson provided photographs of the two them that are considered intimate accounts of their life together. One photo shows Rhodes kissing Simpson on the side of his head. Simpson also provided intimate text messages.
This is only considered a “scandal” because the object of Rhodes affection is a man. We don’t know whether Rhodes is bisexual, gay or simply a young man experimenting, but does it matter? It should not.
Rhodes is an excellent ball player who was predicted to be picked up by an NFL team by next month. Some are speculating that this will hurt Rhode’s chances of getting a new NFL home. Really?
The NFL has harbored wife beaters, drug addicts, drunks and even those accused of murder. Why would Rhodes sexual orientation be considered a negative when these other issues are readily ignored or defended? Rampant homophobia.
As this story takes hold, I am sure we will hear players or owners talking about locker rooms and the close quarters that players share. Guess what, Kerry Rhodes has been in those environments since 2005 and nothing happened. The only difference is that Rhodes would now be open about his sexuality, whatever that is.
This is the perfect opportunity for the NFL to illustrate that they have moved beyond their traditionally homophobic culture. It has been rumored for months that four current NFL players were planning to “come out” together. How the NFL treats the Rhodes situation may negatively imbue the reputed players’ decision to come out.
No one wants to lose their economic livelihood. If having a gay relationship ends Rhodes career, then at the end of the day no other players will come out. The question is simply “I am I willing to give up millions of dollars a year to be able to be true to myself at work.” Unfortunately, many LGBT people answer a similar question to a certain extent every day. Their answer is often “no.” I am not willing to risk my economic security to be openly LGBT.
This is why the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is so important. It will prevent employers from firing employees because of their sexual orientation or gender expression. Coupled with the sexual harassment laws, LGBT people will be protected in the workplace.
I hope the NFL knows that the LGBT community, and beyond, are watching closely how they handle Kerry Rhodes. Will Rhodes continue to be recruited by teams and his reputed sexual orientation have no affect on his ability to continue his job in the NFL?
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, the world will be watching.
Reprinted from San Diego LGBT Weekly