A bill that could ban gays from playing in the NFL is possibly unconstitutional, being pushed for entirely cynical political reasons and is not based on any empirical evidence . . . and that’s according to the lobbyist promoting the bill.
Jack Burkman is a Washington lobbyist who announced via his PR firm on Monday that he would “block gays from the NFL.” The announcement comes in the aftermath of NFL draft prospect Michael Sam coming out as gay earlier in February and Jason Collins making his debut for the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday as the first openly gay player in a major professional sport.
In an interview with The Daily Beast, Burkman backtracked from his press release and said that his bill would mandate that the NFL have separate showers and changing facilities for gay players or otherwise not allow them to play at all. He said, “The NFL will have to decide to have entirely separate facilities for homosexuals or ban them by federal law.” The bill would only focus on the NFL because “that’s the big enchilada in American sports.”
While the lobbyist wouldn’t reveal the members of Congress who supported the bill, as specific language had not even been drafted, he did say that almost all shared something in common: They were all Republicans worried about a Tea Party challenge. Burkman told The Daily Beast he thinks “95 percent of supporters” will be Republicans facing primary challenges and therefore looking for political cover. Burkman spelled out his coalition, saying that one Senator and six members of the House were definitely on board, but that those numbers could expand to six Senators and 36 congressmen. And, of those 42, “all but one will do this politically because they have been under fire from Tea Party and far right wing element” in their states.
Burkman, who is a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, brushed aside concerns about the bill’s constitutionality. “The last thing that Congress does is look at the constitutionality,” he said. Instead, the lobbyist insisted, “My experience is that Congress tends to run roughshod over constitutionality.” In fact, he added, “So far, of all the discussions that we’ve had, the legal end has been the last.” Instead, Burkman said the focus was on “substance” and “PR.”
When asked if there were any actual evidence of harm being caused by gay players and straight players showering together, Burkman replied, “I don’t care.” Instead, he believes “even the very practice of it is indecent.” In his opinion, “what these specific group of teammates say is irrelevant.” Instead, Burkman asked a rhetorical question, “Do I want to enter a business of prescribing what is indecent?” His answer, apparently, is yes.
To be sure, Burkman insists that he’s not prejudiced against gays. He told The Daily Beast, “The legislation I intend to offer is not about keeping people out,” but about “common decency” and “civility.” In the lobbyist’s opinion, this is about putting “this camel nose under the tent” of political correctness. Plus, it’s a way to help out members of Congress who he described as “extreme conservatives coming under fire and being perceived as centrists.”
Jason Collins and the Brooklyn Nets play in Portland on Wednesday and then fly to Denver to face the Nuggets on Thursday night. In the meantime, the lobbyist told The Daily Beast that he hopes to unveil the legislation by the end of next week, if not sooner.