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Free agent safety Kerry Rhodes was more or less outed by Media Takeout during the offseason (the pictures that MTO posted of him with another man appear to have been scrubbed from the site). He still hasn't found a job. This is f**** up, because Kerry Rhodes is good. In fact, by many metrics, he's very good.
Rhodes picked off four passes last season (two of them came against the Jets, but still!) and was part of the fifth-best pass defense in the NFL. Pro Football Focus had him ranked as the fourth-best safety in all of football in 2012. Apart from the retired Ronde Barber, Rhodes is the only player in PFF's top 30 safeties from 2012 that doesn't currently have a job.
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Look at his career stats and you will see that there was no obvious drop-off in the quality of Rhodes's play in 2012 compared to the seven previous seasons. He's been serviceable at worst and Pro Bowl-caliber at best. Nothing about him has changed except for the fact that someone put up a picture of him with his arm around a dude. Rhodes has vehemently denied the gay rumors, and yet the mere suspicion of his gayness seems to have been enough to make him unemployable.
If you watched any of the games from Week 1, you know that there are 5 teams that could use improved safety play. According to Mike Florio, four teams tried out defensive backs this week: the Bucs, Colts, Dolphins and Seahawks. None of them brought in Rhodes. The second David Wilson put two balls on the ground against the Cowboys, Tom Coughlin was sprinting to the waiver wire to find any running back with 10 fingers and a working spinal cord (he grabbed Brandon Jacobs, which indicates that he failed in that task). Why a team like the Ravens—who were DESTROYED by Julius Thomas and the rest of the Denver passing offense—wouldn't do the same thing and at least kick the tires on Rhodes is baffling. Florio told me this in an email:
From league source who requested anonymity: "There's no buzz about Kerry Rhodes." Also, from what I am hearing, I can't disagree with the possibility Rhodes is being blackballed. You can quote me on all of this.
I called 5 Star Athlete Management, which represents Rhodes, to ask if the safety had fielded any calls this week. Jennifer Thatcher, a VP at the agency, confirmed that Rhodes got no tryouts after Week 1, but she declined to comment any further.
Even if you're unmoved by any social-justice concerns here, there's the basic football problem of it. My favorite team BLOWS at strong safety right now, and it annoys me that they, along with 31 other teams, have so conspicuously avoided giving a capable defensive player like Rhodes so much as a tryout.
This is a league that pays endless lip service to the idea that the best players play, regardless of skin color, politics, religion, whatever. If Rhodes's sexuality is a nonissue for teams, then what else is wrong with him? What other explanation is there? Did his f**** legs fall off? There's no indication that Rhodes is no longer interested in playing football. As recently as July, Rhodes said four teams were pursuing him. He has yet to file retirement papers. As a nine-year vet, Rhodes would be entitled to a league minimum of $840,000 under the current CBA: not cheap but not exorbitant. There's no indication he is sitting around, expecting someone to hand him $30 million in guarantees. This is the NFL. If you're on your couch and the league calls and offers you a job for the minimum, you go. Ask Brandon Jacobs.
If Rhodes and Jason Collins spend the next full year unemployed, that's basically a gigantic f*** YOU from general managers. DURRRRR WE CAN'T HAVE OUR BOYS DISTRACTED BY THE IDEA OF YOU SUCKING A DICK DURRRRRR. It would send a clear signal to closeted players to keep their mouths shut. And if Rhodes can be shunned, how many other players have been shunned for other various, imbecilic reasons?
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Friend of the site Chris Kluwe, who is not gay but has been a loud advocate for gay rights, also can't get work. Statistically, Kluwe was a middle-of-the-pack punter for Minnesota last season. You can perhaps justify teams ignoring Kluwe in favor of seemingly better options. But is it really so hard to see an NFL team looking at Kluwe's high profile and deeming his activism too much of a "distraction"? (Exhibit A: This ESPN column last year, in which the writer all but imagines NFL owners cracking their knuckles and saying, "That's a nice social-justice platform you got there. It'd be a shame if anything happened to it." Sportswriters love to talk about "distractions," because the term is value-neutral and lets them pretend that media fusses are naturally occurring external phenomena, like thunderstorms and double rainbows.) And in the case of Rhodes, there's NO statistical justification for his unemployment. It's football malpractice. He's good. The numbers say so. And yet there he sits. Pretty depressing s***. Riley f**** Cooper dropped an n-bomb on camera and managed to stay employed, and Riley Cooper SUCKS. The longer Rhodes stays unemployed, the more glaring his absence becomes.