One Republican lobbyist says he’s busy working on legislation that would ban openly gay athletes from playing in the National Football League. According to him, it’s all about stopping America from sliding into moral degeneracy.
Jack Burkman, CEO of Burkman LLC and a self-described “premier political consultant,” announced on Monday that he's working on a bill to ban gay athletes from the NFL after Missouri defensive end Michael Sam came out as gay. If Sam is selected in April’s NFL draft, he could become the league’s first ever openly gay player (and the second openly gay male player in any major U.S. sports league after the NBA's Jason Collins), a prospect that apparently horrifies Burkman.
"I felt that if the NFL doesn't have any morals, and people like [NFL Commissioner] Roger Goodell, who are just go-along-get-along guys, just want to appease advertisers, appease corporate America and all that stuff," Burkman told the Huffington Post. "I figured, well, it is time for conservatives in Congress to step in and define morality for them.”
Burkman says his biggest problem with allowing gay men to play in the NFL comes with gay players using the same showers as straight players. In a press release, he claimed that knowing one’s children were “forced” to shower with a gay man would be “a horrifying prospect for every mom in the country.”
Though any bill proposing to keep gay men out of the NFL would clearly be discriminatory, Burkman says he doesn’t see any parallels between his proposed bill and the last century’s Jim Crow laws.
"That is a completely different thing, a different issue. Race, skin color, have nothing to do with it. This is not about bigotry. It is about common decency and civility," he told the Huffington Post. "Society is moving to a point where we are going to have unisex bathrooms and the next generation thinks that is OK.”
On Tuesday Sam responded with a tweet: "Jack Burkman is going to need a Delorian [sic], not some bogus bill, if he wants to prevent gay athletes from being in the locker room," a reference to the movie "Back to the Future."
Perhaps surprisingly for his views, Burkman is far from a no-name lobbyist. The Hill reports that his firm signed 70 new clients in 2013, many of them in the energy and construction industries. According to the man himself, he already has five House members and one senator who are interested in co-sponsoring the bill. Burkman believes he can get those numbers up to 36 representatives and five senators in the coming weeks, though he notably refused to name any of them.
However, despite Burkman’s name recognition as a lobbyist, there’s virtually no chance that such a bill would pass, even if he could muster up the politicians. For starters, 36 House members would be far too few to ever pass a piece of legislation. Even if Burkman did somehow manage to get a bill passed by the House and Senate, there’s no way the pro-same-sex marriage President Barack Obama would ever such a discriminatory bill.
One of the biggest critics of Burkman’s proposed bill is his own younger brother, Dr. Jim Burkman, who is gay. Jim Burkman, an anesthesiologist from Seattle, called his brother “an ass” on Twitter and proceeded to explain to the Huffington Post that his brother had gone too far.
“I think the idea that he is pushing legislation that is just hurtful and ridiculous is just plain stupid,” Jim Burkman told the Huffington Post.
“He is not a legislator and he can’t really push legislation. I don’t think there are any cosponsors for a bill. It is just an attention grab and a media grab to pander to those folks who pay him to lobby on their behalf."