Editors' Note: Guest blogger Warren J. Blumenfeld is a professor in the College of Education at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
"This will be the beginning of our country sliding toward, it's a strong word, but anarchy. How can marriage be marriage for thousands of years and now all the sudden because a minority, an influential minority, has a push or agenda ... and totally reshapes something that was not founded in our country."
-- David Tyree, to the National Organization for Marriage, 2011.
David Tyree, former NFL wide receiver for the New York Giants, is probably most renowned for his amazing "helmet catch" in 2007 to continue the ultimately decisive game-winning surge against the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLI by the close score of 17-14. In 2011, though, he announced that he would gladly trade his phenomenal catch in exchange for a law outlawing marriage for same-sex couples.
Tyree, who is married, a father of four children, and a self-proclaimed devout Christian, asserted that homosexuality and marriage for same-sex couples defies God: "I don't agree with it [same-sex marriage] because God doesn't agree with it. As a Christian, I don't agree. Society may be changing but God is not."
He also claimed in a series of tweets in 2011 that homosexuality is not inborn: "...there are many former homosexual men & women in this country & no scientific data to support the claim of being born gay." Tyree also alleged that he has met "former homosexuals."
Well, Mr. Tyree, if you don't "agree" with marriage for same-sex couples, don't marry someone of the same sex. Simple! If you think having attractions for others of the same sex and acting on this is a choice, well, don't choose it yourself. Period, the end! Can we move on now?
So why should we care one way or the other what David Tyree believes on the issue of sexuality or on marriage for same-sex couples? He certainly has the right to believe whatever he wants to believe and to worship the God of his choice, though if having same-sex attractions and acting on those attractions is also a choice, he would rather us not choose this. At the very least, he does not want our government to choose to grant legal status to our relationships within the institution of marriage.
Others maintain views similar to Tyree's, as evidenced recently when the former Super Bowl-winning coach and current sports analyst for NBC, Tony Dungy, stated that he would not have picked Michael Sam, the first "out" gay athlete to play in the NFL, in the draft because it could be a "distraction" -- even though Sam has the talent to play in the major leagues.
But again, why should we care about Tyree's views? There are a number of reasons, one being his influence as a sports hero on the beliefs and attitudes of the many people, young and old, who look up to him as a role model. I would like here to concentrate, however, on Tyree's new position as director of player development for the New York Giants football franchise. Giants coach Tom Coughlin described the position:
"Player engagement has become extremely important in any franchise. It is the working relationship with the players to aid them in their continuing education, their development as young men, the opportunities in the business world and in networking in the city that they happen to be playing in. It is there to help instruct them, make them aware of the issues and the problems that exist out in the community and the world to try to keep them focused on their job and not fall into trouble."
To answer the question I posed above, this is one of the reasons why we should care about Tyree's views. The message his hiring sends is one of intolerance for any gay or bisexual team member who might be thinking about "coming out" publicly as did Michael Sam.
When a part of the job is "to aid [team members] in their continuing education, their development as young men, the opportunities in the business world and in networking in the city," how will Tyree's understanding of human sexuality advance his ability to follow through on this portion of his job description? Will he simply punt, or will he attempt to impose his views? Will team members who support gay and bisexual peers and marriage for same-sex couples trust or accept Tyree's "aid"?
New York state passed marriage equality on July 24, 2011. Anarchy did not break out, the heavens did not open, lightning bolts did not destroy humankind, the earth did not open and swallow us all into its bowels. Actually, for one thing, business revenues increased markedly. In fact, as reported in a 2012 study, the law generated $259 million in economic impact in New York City alone in just one year.
According to Mayor Bloomberg, a year after the measure passed:
"Marriage equality has made our City more open, inclusive and free - and it has also helped to create jobs and support our economy. New York has always been a great place to get married and since the passage of the Marriage Equality Act, we're welcoming more and more couples, their families and friends from around the country and the world."
Coach Coughlin also stated that "[Tyree's] ability to function on many, many levels is extremely attractive. Anyone who's ever spent time with him or heard him speak publicly knows the quality of his work. We thought he was the best guy for the job."
And Giants general manager Jerry Reese added: "We do our due diligence on everybody we try to hire around here. No. 1, he was qualified for the job, and we think he's a terrific fit for us. We're happy to have him on board."
This statement leads me to believe that Giants officials knew of Tyree's past statements. By doing its due diligence, the Giants organization is piling on a whole bunch of dodo into the emerging controversy, even though a Giants spokesperson went on the defensive by announcing that Tyree was expressing personal views that did not represent the beliefs of the organization.
Well, Giants officials, you cannot hide behind "Tyree was expressing his personal views" when he has authority over team players. You cannot hide behind "his views do not represent the beliefs of the organization" when you supposedly did your due diligence. Your hiring of Tyree supports his views implicitly and by association.
We must distinguish two apparently separate but interrelated concepts: "intent" and "impact." Your intent in hiring Tyree may not have been to condone or promote his beliefs, but his ascension to this position has the impact of doing the opposite. How often do we hear, "Well, I didn't intend to insult you"?
This defense does not assuage the offensive and insulting words or actions. It does not mitigate your complicity. You simply cannot position yourself as some sort of mythical "innocent bystander."
This brings to mind civil rights activist Eldridge Cleaver's call to action: "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem."