The Atlanta Falcons could be in trouble with the NFL for crossing a line during an interview with Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple at the Scouting Combine last month. Apple told Comcast Sports Net's Breakfast on Broad show Friday morning that one Falcons coach asked him if he liked men during an interview with the team.
"The Falcons coach, one of the coaches, was like, 'So do you like men?' It was like the first thing he asked me. It was weird. I was just like, 'no.' He was like, 'if you're going to come to Atlanta, sometimes that's how it is around here, you're going to have to get used to it.'"
Not only is the question stupid and irrelevant to his ability as a player, it also happens to violate the NFL's anti-discrimination policy. Teams are forbidden to ask players and prospects about their sexuality, something the league had to remind teams about prior to the 2014 Scouting Combine which included Michael Sam, the NFL's first openly gay player.
On Monday, both Dan Quinn and the coach in question, defensive backs coach Marquand Manuel, released official statements on the matter:
"Following my discussions with the coaches, we have taken additional steps to ensure our entire staff is well educated on the appropriate questions and comments that should be made during these processes," Quinn said. "Our organization holds itself to a very high standard and we will learn from this."
Both Quinn and Manuel noted that there was a training seminar with a "league-approved counselor" at the team's facilities regarding "social responsibility."
"I have had an individual counseling session on social responsibility today, and was part of a staff session as well and found it very valuable in learning from this situation," Manuel said. "Moving forward, I will become a better man by going through all of this."
Manuel accepted responsibility for the "inappropriate question," and apologized specifically to Apple, the Falcons organization and fans of the team.
While this statement is regarding Manuel, after this incident came to light it was reported that multiple players were asked "gender questions" by the Falcons.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time teams have asked this question. In 2013, Colorado tight end Nick Kasa reported that he had been asked that at the combine. The NFL told Outsports at the time that the league was looking into Kasa's claim and was prepared to take action. Both the league and the NFLPA condemned teams asking that question of players and potential draftees.
Dumb questions are a regular part of the draft evaluation process. For whatever reason teams feel like they can glean some insight into a prospect's personality by asking players things like where they would sit on a bus driving 100 mph over a mountain in Alaska.
Too often those questions cross the line from dumb to inappropriate. The most famous example was former Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland asking Dez Bryant if his mother was a prostitute. Cam Newton had his character questioned when he refused to answer whether he'd rather be a cat or a dog, because obviously nothing can tell NFL scouts more about what a player can do on the field than their preferred domesticated house pet.
The Falcons have even discussed the question of whether they'd rather be a cat or a dog. GM Thomas Dimitroff said he'd be the more "explosive" animal.
Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn issued a statement Friday shortly after Apple's revelation:
"I am really disappointed in the question that was asked by one of our coaches. I have spoken to the coach that interviewed Eli Apple and explained to him how inappropriate and unprofessional this was. I have reiterated this to the entire coaching staff and I want to apologize to Eli for this even coming up. This is not what the Atlanta Falcons are about and it is not how we are going to conduct ourselves."
Now, the Falcons are going to be the ones answering some questions.