Athletes have heard the ugly words on practice fields for most of their lives. They hear them in the streets and at neighborhood hangouts.
But when Chiefs running back Larry Johnson used an antigay slur on his Twitter account and in the locker room this week, he struck a nerve that makes professional sports leagues wince.
The NFL, like other pro sports leagues, is perceived as homophobic. Of the more than 20,000 athletes who have played in the NFL, less than a handful have identified themselves as gay — David Kopay was the first in 1975, followed by Roy Simmons and Esera Tuaolo — and only after their careers had ended.
Now the image-conscious NFL — which fines players for wearing droopy socks or the wrong-colored chin straps, is frightened by the prospect of Rush Limbaugh as an owner and enforces a rigid personal conduct policy — is confronted with how to deal with gay-bashing.
"It seems like every single season I'm getting phone calls about some athlete saying a gay slur, and using the word 'gay' and 'faggot' and 'homo' and 'queer' in such a negative term," Tuaolo said in a phone interview with The Star from his home in suburban Minneapolis.
"There are gay athletes in the NFL and in baseball and in the NHL … it's so crippling to someone who is going to work knowing there is no support in their organization. What is also crippling to an athlete is hearing slurs like that thrown around like it's just the thing to do. When you use the term 'gay' or 'faggot' or 'queer; and you use it in a negative term, it's the same as calling a woman a 'bitch.' Or the same as calling an African-American the n-word. It's demeaning to another human being. And it's not right."
Read the complete story at kansascity.com