Bengals asking one thing: Will you help us win?

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

With Michael Sams' admissions earlier this week, and the Ted Wells' investigation into the Dolphins locker room, focus has returned to NFL locker rooms.

Focus has returned to the chemistry of a locker room this week, upsetting the dynamic of an outdated, though accepted culture, from which would not be tolerable in any other walk of life. This is football. It's the way it is. If we applied that with other aspects of life, women still wouldn't be allowed to vote and young children would be working labor-intensive jobs before their tenth birthday. People, cultures and accepted society norms evolve over time. Our society 50 years ago is nothing like it is today.

If you were to listen to people that observe football as a secondary hobby, it would seem that the NFL locker room is housed by barbarians, dragging their women by the hair and throwing spears at mammoth's to serve a much needed dinner to feed the community.

Obviously, not true.

While the culture of a locker room took a hit on Ted Wells' investigative report in Miami, the NFL locker room is far more evolved than what is commonly believed. Defensive end Michael Sam, an NFL prospect that will join an NFL team at some point this spring, announced that he was openly gay. The reaction from the Cincinnati Bengals relates to a single question: Who cares. Does he help win football games?

"The Bengals are about winning football games and we are a welcoming workplace that supports the concept of the NFL as a football meritocracy," a team spokesman told ESPN.com earlier this week. "Purely personal factors will not affect the prospects here for someone who shows ability, determination and a commitment to be a good teammate in the club environment."

Bengals NFLPA representative Andrew Whitworth, who usually opens himself to hot-button topics, believes that an openly gay player is a media-drive story, which doesn't translate to the locker room.

"I knew it was going to be a big story in the media and people were going to have different reactions, but like I've said, for the most part, guys aren't going to be that concerned with people's personal choices," Whitworth said. "The truth is, as much as people want to paint all football players the same, in a locker room with 50, 60 different guys, there's 60 different personalities and preferences ... . I just don't think it's a topic or one of those things that's talked about that much.

"People don't realize this isn't high school football. We aren't sitting around a bonfire talking. This is work. ... Sometimes it becomes a hot topic within the media and within the ranks that try to make it a big deal around fans. But the truth is, if they think this is the first gay player that's been in the locker room, they're crazy."

I'd be willing to guess that Whitworth's assessment is generally practiced among most NFL teams. Unfortunately, our society isn't so far evolved to disregard the possible implications; not just yet.

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