We are disappointed by the recent comments posted on Twitter by the Seattle Seahawks' defensive end Chris Clemons regarding the prospect of an active NFL player coming out as gay. Clemons's characterization of the act of coming out as "selfish" and of a player's sexual orientation as being something that "should be left at home" is out of step with the diverse community of fans throughout the Pacific Northwest who support the Seattle Seahawks franchise. While Clemons is entitled to express his views, we call on him to reexamine his remarks, particularly in light of the offense they have caused.
We also call on the Seahawks to maintain a strong and visible stance in favor of equality and inclusion in the workplace.
We were encouraged on August 11, 2011 when the Seahawks issued a joint press release with the Seattle Storm, Seattle Sounders FC, and the Seattle Mariners announcing the creation of an “It Gets Better” video by members of each team. The press release declared that inclusiveness, fair play, and diversity are core values shared by each of our city’s pro sports teams, with Peter McLoughlin, president of both the Seahawks and the Sounders, stating that “We believe our role in the community is very important. This video provided an opportunity for all the professional teams to come together and offer a message of hope and encouragement to our young fans.”
Especially after their participation in the It Gets Better Project, we are disappointed that the Seattle Seahawks organization did not act more quickly to distance itself from Clemons' remarks, and to reinforce its commitment as a Washington state employer to providing a workplace that welcomes and supports diversity for its players and other employees. We are pleased by the Seahawks' subsequent statement that they would welcome an openly gay player to the team. We hope they will continue to consistently offer a message of hope, fairness, and inclusion to their fans, players, and other employees beyond a simple online video.
We all know there are gay players in the NFL. The fact that no active NFL player has ever come out is directly related to concerns about how teammates, fans, and team owners will react. Every franchise needs to lead by example and make it clear that openly gay players are welcome and that anti-gay discrimination will not be tolerated.
We are proud that Washington state has some of the strongest workplace protection laws for its LGBT citizens. That said, more needs to be done to educate people about the importance of an inclusive workplace. We were encouraged by the strong support from the business community for Referendum 74, where businesses large and small publicly declared the value of a work environment accepting of all employees regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. We welcome the opportunity to work with the Seahawks—and any other sports team, business, organization or group—to start a meaningful dialog and education regarding workplace equality.