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Recent NFL memo to teams reinforces anti-discrimination policies

As NFL teams prepare for the annual scouting combine in Indianapolis, they have been reminded by the league office that the sport’s existing policies prohibit them from discriminating against players based on a variety of factors, including sexual orientation.

The league recently sent a memo to each of the teams reinforcing that policy, according to a person familiar with the situation.

The scouting combine begins this week in the aftermath of this month’s announcement by University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam that he is gay. Sam is projected by some talent evaluators as a mid-round selection in the NFL draft and he could become the only openly gay active player in the country’s four major professional sports.

The league’s memo to teams comes after a player, tight end Nick Kasa, said following last year’s scouting combine that he’d been asked about his sexual orientation.

The person with knowledge of the situation said the communication to teams reinforcing the league policy was “already done [by] memo.” The person characterized the memo as “a reminder of current policy” and called it “routine” and “not a big deal.”

That person said the teams “understand [the policy] from last year.”

Kasa, now with the Oakland Raiders, told a Denver radio station following last year’s scouting combine: “They ask you like, ‘Do you have a girlfriend? Are you married? Do you like girls?’ Those kinds of things, and you know it was just kind of weird. But they would ask you with a straight face, and it’s a pretty weird experience altogether.”

Kasa did not identify the team or teams involved. The league announced last April that its review of the team-by-team interviewing process at last year’s combine produced no evidence of specific violations. But the league also announced at the time that it had made it clear to teams what was acceptable when interviewing players and other job candidates.

The league said last year that teams are expected to follow all applicable laws and added that its collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union prohibits discrimination against any player, including on the basis of sexual orientation. League policy prohibits teams from considering sexual orientation or inquiring about it during the hiring process, the NFL said last year.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said at last year’s annual league meeting: “We’re a professional organization…. We will do things the right way. We will give them that education and that training. I hope that will solve the problem.”