Schneiderman to NFL: Sexual orientation discrimination is illegal (UPDATED)

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Attorney General Eric Schneiderman wrote a letter to the National Football League on Thursday compelling the organization to ensure it does not discriminate against players and recruits on the basis of sexual orientation.

Schneiderman called on the NFL to craft policy that formally states discrimination against gay players and recruits violates state and federal law.

The attorney general’s letter follows recent reports that recruits at a scouting combine were asked about their sexual orientation.

“From the Scouting Combine to the playing fields, everyone deserves equal protection under the law and the right to a fair workplace,” Schneiderman said in a statement Thursday. “In New York state, we have no tolerance for discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, national origin, disability, sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation.”

UPDATE: Brian McCarthy, an NFL spokesman, said in an email Thursday: “We have been looking into the matter and will discuss it further next week at the NFL annual meeting in Phoenix.”

He then referred to a statement the league released in late February, which argues that the NFL does not discriminate in its hiring process.

“Any team or employee that inquires about impermissible subjects or makes an employment decision based on such factors is subject to league discipline,” the league said.

Under state law, it is illegal for an employer to refuse to hire or employ an individual because of sexual orientation. Employers are barred from inquiring about a potential hire’s sexual orientation.

The attorney general’s office has authority to investigate allegations of employment discrimination by companies.

The following are excerpts from Schneiderman’s letter:

“Equal protection under the law is an essential issue for employers, employees and prospective job applicants. For that reason, I ask that the League clarify its position by issuing a public statement that any form of discrimination or harassment on the basis of sexual orientation by League teams or their employees or agents against potential recruits or players constitutes a violation of state, local and, in some cases, contractual law, and will not be tolerated.”

“I also urge the League to memorialize this commitment in a written policy that, once finalized, is appropriately distributed and disseminated throughout the League. Our office stands prepared to offer guidance and support in the development of this policy.”

“We will be seeking a meeting with the League staff supervising your investigation of the incidents reported by prospective players.”

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