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N.Y. AG asks NFL about sexual orientation questions at Combine

By Bryan Cohen | Mar 14, 2013

NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) - New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Thursday called on National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell to ensure players and potential players are not discriminated against based on sexual orientation.

Schneiderman, in a letter to the commissioner, called for a formal written policy explaining that any form of harassment or discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation by teams or employees against recruits or players is a violation of state, local and, in some cases, contractual law and will not be tolerated.

Under employment discrimination laws in the state of New York, companies based in or doing business in the state are not allowed to ask job candidates or employees questions about their sexual orientation. Approximately 24 of the 32 NFL teams have headquarters in jurisdictions with similar employment discrimination laws.

It is illegal for an employer to refuse to hire or employ someone because of sexual orientation under the New York State Human Rights Law. Additionally, the law bars any employer from "mak[ing] any inquiry in connection with prospective employment, which expresses directly or indirectly, any limitation, specification or discrimination as to ... sexual orientation ... or any intent to make any such limitation, specification or discrimination."

The NFL's 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement also includes a commitment that "[t]here will be no discrimination in any form against any player by the Management Council, any Club or by the NFLPA because of race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or activity or lack of activity on behalf of the NFLPA." Prospective players, however, are not protected by the provision.

"From the Scouting Combine to the playing fields, everyone deserves equal protection under the law and the right to a fair workplace," Schneiderman said. "In New York state, we have no tolerance for discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, national origin, disability, sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation. Employment discrimination is ethically wrong and illegal no matter who the employer is. I hope we can work together with the National Football League to send a powerful message that employment discrimination will not be tolerated in any form."

Schneiderman's request follows closely on the heels of media reports that three potential NFL players - Le'veon Bell, Denard Robinson and Nick Kasa - were asked questions about their sexual orientation at the national recruitment Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in February.

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