Openly gay Cowboys player Michael Sam has employment protection through his union contract, but Dallas LGBT leaders want those same protections offered to the rest of the Cowboy staff
Resource Center CEO Cece Cox and Fairness Fort Worth President David Mack Henderson sent a letter to the Dallas Cowboys this week thanking team officials for signing openly-gay player Michael Sam. The letter also asked for the team to extend employment nondiscrimination protections to all its employees.
“We are writing you today regarding an issue of fairness and equality for all employees of the Dallas Cowboys,” they wrote in the letter, addressed to Cowboys’ Vice President and COO Stephen Jones and Chief Human Resources Officer Heidi Weingarten.
Cox and Henderson say they are “thrilled that our team” signed Sam to its practice squad and that they look forward to seeing Sam on the field later this season. They also note the 2011 labor contract between the players association and the NFL that includes nondiscrimination protections based on sexual orientation.
Those protections, however, only extend to the players and do not include other staff.
Henderson and Cox point out in their letter that there are no municipal nondiscrimination ordinances that protect Cowboys staff at AT&T Stadium in Arlington or at Cowboys offices in Las Colinas. Nor are there municipal ordinances in either Irving or Arlington that protect Cowboys fans against discrimination in public accommodations.
Resource Center spokesman Rafael McDonnell said NFL teams first adopted a nondiscrimination policy for players in 2011. that year.
Attorneys Ted Olsen and David Boies were representing the players and owners respectively. That team is best known for winning the
California Proposition 8 case in the Supreme Court last year.
Adding those protections seemed obvious to the pair and sexual orientation was added to the contract without dispute.
McDonnell said around that time, gay sports bloggers looked into the policies of the teams and found that only the 49ers protected its employees.
“Today, Michael Sam, by virtue of his union contract, can be out at work,” McDonnell said. “It seemed the right time to ask, hey, what about everyone else?”
“Our sports teams serve as role models for fans of all ages,” Henderson said. “As a community barometer, the Dallas Cowboys have often led the way in corporate citizenship.”
Henderson said that bringing on Michael Sam demonstrates what the Cowboys value as an organization: “What matters in the workplace is quality performance.”
Team owner Jerry Jones answered similarly when asked why he signed Sam after passing on him in the draft. Jones answered that he watched Sam’s performance and saw how hard he worked as he practiced with the Rams.
Henderson said he hopes “this high road standard has a ripple effect both on and off the field. Our kids are eagerly watching for their example.”
Henderson said he hopes to see the Cowboys organization issue a statement that includes assurances that all fans are welcome at AT&T Stadium. He pointed out that AT&T has a 100 percent rating with Human Rights Campaign in its Corporate Equality Index.
“As more LGBT people and our families openly identify in all life matters, it’s crucial the Cowboys signal that every fan is welcome at AT&T Stadium,” Henderson said.
He said the letter is not in response to any complaints from Cowboys staff members or reaction to incidents among fans at the stadium.
Henderson said when he and Cox wrote the letter, they wanted the Cowboys to set the best example for our community just as they did for the NFL by hiring Sam.
“High standards and practices are what matter most,” he said.
The leter was sent via fax and U.S. mail on Tuesday and as of press time in Thursday, neither Henderson nor Cox had received a response from the Cowboys.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 19, 2014.