Former Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple was placed in an uncomfortable situation during the NFL combines last week when an Atlanta Falcons coach asked if he was gay.
Apple shared details behind the off-putting interaction during an interview Friday with Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia. The draft pick explained he was asked a lot of weird questions during the combine in Indianapolis, just months before the NFL Draft in April. Apple said he believed the question was a joke, but found it inappropriate nonetheless.
“The Falcons coach, one of the coaches, was like, ‘So do you like men?’” Apple said. “It was like the first thing he asked me. It was weird. I was just like, ‘no.’ He was like, ‘if you’re going to come to Atlanta, sometimes that’s how it is around here, you’re going to have to get used to it.’ I guess he was joking but they just ask most of these questions to see how you’re going to react.”
The move quickly prompted an apology from Falcons coach Dan Quinn. The question was asked by Marquand Manuel, a secondary coach and senior defensive assistant, who also apologized.
“I am really disappointed in the question that was asked by one of our coaches,” Quinn said in a statement released by the team. “I have spoken to the coach that interviewed Eli Apple and explained to him how inappropriate and unprofessional this was. I have reiterated this to the entire coaching staff and I want to apologize to Eli for this even coming up. This is not what the Atlanta Falcons are about and it is not how we are going to conduct ourselves.”
“I take full responsibility for the inappropriate question I asked at the combine,” Manuel said. “It was wrong and I apologize to Eli Apple, Mr. Blank, the entire Falcons organization, my family, and our Falcon fans for my insensitivity. I understand it was inappropriate and the offense people have taken to it. I have had an individual counseling session on social responsibility today, and was part of a staff session as well, and found it very valuable in learning from this situation. Moving forward, I will become a better man by going through all of this.”
The NFL is currently looking into the incident. In 2013, the league launched an investigation after three draft prospects were asked questions about their sexual orientation. The league has historically battled with homophobia on the field.
Apple was ranked the No. 22 overall draft prospect by ESPN and is considered a potential pick for the Oakland Raiders.