JP Pritchard

The NFL’s Lost Conscience: Manti Te’o Gay Scandal Reveals Deeper League Issues

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The controversy surrounding Manti Te’o makes me angry.

Not necessarily about Te’o himself, whose maturity was missing in his catfishing scandal, or the fact the once anticipated top 10 pick choked during the scouting combine (likely from all the scrutiny placed on his shoulders), but because the same league which claims to care about the development and diversity of its athletes seems to care little about both.

Controversy Equals Heisman? Johnny Football, Manti Te’o In Focus

When Profootballtalks’s Mike Florio tells The Dan Patrick Show a player’s prospects may swing on his sexuality, even if alleged, it’s a problem for the National Football League. The situation is compounded when the league’s reluctance to address more lethal issues, such as alcohol abuse, is considered.

If we are to take the NFL at its words, the league must choose to not only become gay-inclusive in 2013, but adhere to its original mission or risk being labeled as hypocrites.

First, if Manti Te’o is gay, he should be permitted to come out on his own terms. It’s a personal matter between himself, his family and the creator of his choosing. Forcing an answer, as a Palomar College coach did recently, hurts everyone involved.

The NFL has only two choices: Open its doors to gay football players and affect the world well outside its own sphere in a positive manner, or tarnish the image it seeks to project in its diversity mission statement:

To cultivate an organization and community representing a wide variety of individuals at all levels, all of whom respect, honor and celebrate the broad range of human differences among us…

Equally as harmful is for the NFL to turn away someone who by all accounts– prior to the Heisman Award–should be playing professionally, especially when you consider it’s mission statement:

To challenge National Football League players to be lifelong learners while pursuing continuous improvement in family relations, social interactions, personal growth and career development during and beyond their careers as NFL players.

In December 2012, Te’o was still an odds-on favorite for the 2013 NFL Draft. But, one month later, in the limelight of an embarrassing turn of events, he is shunned for his perceived sexuality? He’s still the same man who accomplished great football for Notre Dame and finished second for the Heisman.

Dallas Cowboy Josh Brent‘s DUI accident which claimed the life of player Jerry Brown, Jr., was a tragic turn of circumstances that could have been prevented with an “improvement in…social interactions, personal growth.”

Both men serve to illustrate a greater point: The NFL, under Commissioner Roger Goodell, is not living up the the expectations it has set for itself, and it should strive to find its conscience again.

Grandmother Remembers Jerry Brown, Jr., Slain Cowboys Player [Listen]

Te’o may be fractured now, but imagine what he might be able to do with the benefit of a league to help strengthen his physical and mental agility. Now, consider Brent, who faces 20 years in prison for his accident.

Both men are troubled by their personal lives, but it doesn’t have to be their undoing. It doesn’t have to be this way.

It is time for Roger Goodell to lead, and it should begin by affirming the rights of gay athletes to join the NFL.

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