Fact Check

Bill to Ban Gay Players from NFL

Would proposed legislation bar NFL teams from employing homosexual players?

Published Mar 3, 2014


Claim:   Proposed legislation would bar NFL teams from employing homosexual players.


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, February 2014]

Is this an actual bill being considered, to block gays from joining the NFL?


Origins:   On 24 February 2014, Jack Burkman, the CEO of Burkman LLC (self-described as the U.S. capital's "top-rated lobbying firm"), issued a press release to announce that he was working on legislation that would "ban gays from joining the National Football League" (NFL):

"We are losing our decency as a nation," Burkman said. "Imagine your son being forced to shower with a gay man. That's a horrifying prospect for every mom in the country. What in the world has this nation come to?"

The controversy over openly gay NFL players now spreads to Capitol Hill as lawmakers return from a seven-day vacation.

Burkman says the legislation that would ban gay players from joining the NFL was triggered by college football star Michael Sam announcing he was gay.

If drafted by an NFL team, Sam would become the first openly gay professional football player.

"If the NFL has no morals and no values, then Congress must find values for it," said Burkman.

Three days later Burkman issued another press release announcing that he had drafted the bill referenced in his previous message, which he dubbed "The American Decency Act of 2014":

Today top D.C. lobbyist Jack Burkman released draft text of "The American Decency Act of 2014," which calls for banning openly gay athletes from playing in the National Football League and fining multi-million dollar fees on teams if they violated the Act.

The bill would prohibit NFL teams "from employing self-declared homosexual football players. This prohibition shall only apply in cases where a football player has openly declared himself to be a homosexual."

Any team that violates the law would be fined $3 million, up to a maximum of $8 million.

"Is it appropriate for NFL players to shower with NFL cheerleaders? Certainly not," says Burkman. "Then why would it be appropriate for straight NFL players to shower with gay NFL players?"

"I truly believe NFL team owners and coaches do not want openly gay players on their teams because of the issues that will cause and I think they may tell you that if they answered honestly," says Burkman. "The morals in this country have dropped so low that it’s sad that a bill like this is even needed."

Burkman's proposed bill would exempt from the law teams that build separate locker facilities for heterosexual and homosexual players:

RESOLVED by the U.S. House of Representatives of the United States of America, that the following article is proposed as federal law under the jurisdiction of the United States of America, enforceable by Executive action.

BE it enacted by the House of Representatives and by the Senate of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that:

Section 1. The National Football League and all teams thereof are hereby prohibited from employing self-declared homosexual football players. This prohibition shall only apply in cases where a football player has openly declared himself to be a homosexual.

Section 2. The prohibition detailed in article (A) above shall not apply to any team of the National Football League that provides facilities for homosexual players which are entirely separate and distinct from the facilities used by heterosexual players.

However, describing this item as "proposed legislation" or a "bill being considered by Congress" is something of a stretch, as Jack Burkman is a private citizen and not a member of Congress and thus has no authority to actually introduce legislation. Although he might conceivably enlist the support of one or more representatives or senators to introduce his bill to Congress and sponsor it, none of that has yet happened (and it's unlikely that it ever will):

The idea that the measure would ever make it into law is patently absurd. Burkman himself [said] that he'd only been able to secure the support of a handful of members of the House of Representatives and just one senator. Notably, he declined to offer any actual names.

Burkman has faced derision for even bringing up the proposal. Several of his clients have expressed their disapproval and at least one has cut ties with his firm. In an interview with The Huffington Post, Burkman's younger brother — an openly gay doctor in Seattle — said he thought the entire thing was a publicity stunt and strongly doubted that a bill would even materialize.

Last updated:   3 March 2014

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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