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Falcons’ “gender-based” questions may have been “widespread”


The Falcons apologized on Friday for asking Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple whether he “likes men.” The Falcons may need to be issuing more apologies.

D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the Falcons’ behavior was not isolated to Apple.

“A few players told me the Falcons were asking gender questions,” an unnamed source told Ledbetter under a headline indicating that the practice may have been widespread. “After [Michael] Sam and the Jonathan Martin situation, teams want to be careful.”

The explanation is confusing. It almost sounds like an effort to justify what happened. If so, someone may now need to try to justify the effort at justification.

What are teams being “careful” about in the wake of Michael Sam and Jonathan Martin? Avoiding the possibility of accidentally drafting a homosexual? Or simply knowing whether they are? (If that’s the case, leave it to football coaches to think that directly asking “do you like men?” will crack the case.)

And how does Jonathan Martin even factor into this one? Is it a concession that, because he was not regarded as being “tough” by some teammates, he is widely regarded within the football community as being gay?

The NFL, which issued a statement on Friday describing the question to Apple as “disappointing” and “clearly inappropriate,” had nothing to add when asked by Ledbetter for a response to the possibility that Apple wasn’t the only one who was asked “disappointing” and “clearly inappropriate” questions. Whatever the league does, it needs to be more effective than anything the league has done in the past, because Ledbetter’s report speaks to a mindset that no memo issued or training provided by the league is going to easily eradicate from the NFL.