ST. LOUIS - There has never been an openly gay player in the National Football League, and the question of sexuality in the NFL became a hot topic this week after several college players said they were asked by at least one NFL team if they liked girls.
"Anything and everything gets asked at the combine," said former NFL player personnel executive Tony Softli. Softli, a football expert for 101ESPN Radio, was once the Vice President of Player Personnel for the St. Louis Rams and worked with other NFL teams in their personnel departments. He's a veteran of 19 NFL Combines, where college players try to prove they're worthy of being drafted and ready for pro football.
Softli says when players like Nick Kasa from the University of Colorado are asked by NFL teams 'do you have a girlfriend, are you married, do you like girls?', there's no question in Softli's mind what they're trying to find out.
"Nobody has ever asked a player in my 15 years of working in the league 'are you gay'and I think that's what the real question is, that's what people want to know," said Softli. "Do you like girls is close to that."
Questions about sexuality are out of bounds and illegal procedure according to employment attorney Jeremy Hollingshead.
"I would specifically ask them not to ask those questions," said Hollingshead, "because I think it creates a risk of liability."
It's unknown how many players were asked questions about girlfriends and marriage. Mizzou wide receiver TJ Moe sent a text saying "nope, didn't ask," meaning none of his combine interviews included questions about relationships or sexuality. Same story for Moe's Tiger teammate: defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. For decades, Former NFL agent Jim Steiner represented hundreds of NFL players who attended the combine, including hall of famer Jerry Rice.
"It's just dumb in my opinion and wrong, and if I was player and they asked me that question, I'd be insulted, a little angry," said Steiner.
"The Jackie Robinson of the National Football League, carrying that flag that I'm a homosexual coming into the NFL hasn't happened yet," said Softli, "and until that happens, there's going to be that type of phobia, that type of question."
The question "do you like girls?" potentially violated the Federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act. It has also caused the NFL to quickly react with a statement saying, "It is league policy to neither consider nor inquire about sexual orientation in the hiring process."