In the years leading up to the Superbowl, the media have been constantly pushing the narrative that the NFL is more inclusive and welcoming than it was years ago.
There are many, many NFL players, coaches and executives who are out there today who are not afraid to openly identify as LGBTQ.
But for many in the media, this is the only thing that defines the league.
This is what separates us from the NFL, the only league where there is a real, ongoing conversation about race, gender and sexual orientation, according to the writer of the forthcoming book “Rise of the NFL: An Insider’s Look at the Rise of a Nation.”
The author, a former sports columnist for The Associated Press, spent five years reporting on the NFL before being fired by the company.
Now he’s running a project called the “League of Human Events,” where he is tracking the diversity of the league through conversations with people from the league, the players and the league’s executives.
He spoke with CNN about how he’s working to change perceptions, especially with the rise of social media, in an effort to bring a more diverse league to the forefront.
You have to get the perception that the league is inclusive of everybody and then you have to really show it to the world, he said.
It’s not about having the NFL as a white-bread, white-collar, white male league.
It has to be something where you can have a conversation about issues of race, sexism and sexual assault and other issues, he added.
I was at a conference with [former ESPN executive] John Skipper and he said, “You’re a great writer, but what about the NFL?
What are you going to do with the NFL?”
He’s one of the most influential people in the business today, so he was right.
Now I’m doing the same thing.
The league’s a business.
It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white or Latino, rich or poor, whatever.
So we need to talk about these issues and the players are very important to me because I see a lot of them coming back, I see so many black and Latino players who are going to be in this Super Bowl.
The NFL’s not just about a bunch of guys who play football, it’s about everybody.
The question is how do you get that perception out there and what do you do about it?
The biggest challenge is trying to be inclusive, to get that message out, he told CNN.
But he stressed that the “real” reason for the NFL to be such a hotbed of diversity is because of the people who come to work and play in the league each day.
The way the players’ union and the NFL negotiate is so much more open to changing that perception, he explained.
I think that the most successful example of this is probably the way the NFL was doing it when they were in the 90s.
I remember my first day as an NFL player, there was an incident where somebody tried to hit me.
I went down on the field and the owner said, ‘Don’t you dare do that to me.’
So I think in that moment, the perception of the player was different, he continued.
The next thing you know, the league was starting to get into the issues of racism and racial discrimination.
When you start to see a change in that perception over time, you start seeing a change.
Now the players have a very, very good relationship with the players.
I see that.
And that’s what has been really interesting to me.
Now, the more that I see the players getting involved, the better they feel about it.
It makes it a lot easier for me to talk to them and the more they understand the league and how they fit into it, and then I get them to be as inclusive as they can be, and it’s a much more productive conversation for the players, he concluded.
And I’ve been surprised to see so much progress over the last five years.
So much of what I’m seeing is just the result of people working together, with the same team, in a way that’s very open and inclusive.
And people are really getting into the process and taking action.
There’s a lot more progress.
And then, when you do, you see the biggest, biggest change in the NFL in the last four years.
It started in the late 90s when the NFL introduced the idea of the Player Safety program.
That came out of the Players’ Association, which I think is the biggest force in the country right now.
That was a major step.
Then the union made it more inclusive.
Now you see it.
Now they’re having a dialogue with the league about things like how the commissioner should deal with certain things like players’ injuries.
And the players want to be part of that conversation and I think they’re beginning to see that, too.
And they want to see it in action.