Let’s be fair: Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians is partially correct.
Yes, there would be NFL fans who would feel inclined to ridicule and hurl insults at a player that is openly gay. After all, anyone who has been to an NFL game in recent years has witnessed first-hand the incredible bravery inebriation and the protection of being in the stands can breed in many a vocal football fan.
And while I don’t want to sound snide, remember such obnoxious heckling has thus far occurred minus any player being openly homosexual.
So, when Arians says fans would be a problem for openly gay players, he is to a point. Further, while there is no real empirical evidence to support Arians’ claim to FOX Sports that “fans and the regular public are a lot more homophobic than players,” I suppose players would, generally speaking, be inclined to get on with the task at hand just like any other person working a job.
At minimum, a football lifer such as Arians would probably have better insight as to how a gay player would be received in the locker room, than say, me.
However, in proclaiming fans to somehow be less tolerant than players, Arians is overlooking the fact that fans already are incredibly accepting and tolerant, maybe even to a fault. Heck, in recent years players have run interstate dogfighting rings, been accused of dragging women into bathroom stalls by her hair and been charged with DUI one time or five.
And although I have no desire to discuss the morals or politics of homosexuality here, I will say this: I have a much bigger problem with the things listed above than I do a football player being gay. Presumably, most fans feel the same way.
Because at the end of the day, evidence would suggest we don’t really care whether the men playing football embody whatever virtues we hold dear. After all, the television ratings continue to soar, the stadiums remain full and the price of beer doesn’t seem to be dropping. Fans keep buying jerseys, playing fantasy football and entering survivor pools.
In short, many of the things people find objectionable don’t seem to be having much ill effect.
Yes, in contrast to Arians, I’d actually argue fans are tolerant — maybe too tolerant. Sure, an openly gay player will mean a little heckling and some abusive comments by a few fans. But will such behavior be all that different from what we already see at stadiums? Will ignorant fans make things so uncomfortable that an openly gay player cannot possibly withstand the abuse?
I seriously doubt it.
Simply put, while I admire Arians for his willingness to discuss a taboo subject, he’s wrong about fans being too intolerant. If anything, they are arguably not intolerant enough.