K Street firm disowns lobbyist who wants to ban gays from NFL

Holland & Knight on Tuesday disowned a former employee who is hawking a bill to ban gays from playing in the National Football League.

The K Street heavyweight condemned the efforts of Jack Burkman in a rare rebuke by a law firm of a former associate.

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“Holland & Knight is proud of its support of the LGBT community and we condemn Jack Burkman's current efforts,” senior communications manager Linda G. Butler said in a statement to The Hill.

Butler’s statement also emphasized that Burkman’s employment with Holland & Knight ended in 2002.

Burkman now serves as founder and president of his own lobbying firm, Burkman Associates.

On Monday, he said several lawmakers would back his bill to prevent gay athletes from playing in the NFL, though he hasn’t named any of them.

He’s since promoted the legislation in a series of media interviews, and rejected accusations that his effort is just a publicity stunt.

“If someone has come out as a homosexual, what this legislation would do, it would one, ban them from the National Football League, and two, it would allow them to create separate facilities,” he said in a Monday evening interview with WJLA.  “I just think it’s common decency. Why do we have separate restrooms for men and women? Why, in school, do boys and girls shower in different areas?”

Burkman has said he came up with his proposal after college football star Michael Sam publicly revealed he was gay in an interview with ESPN earlier this month. If drafted, Sam would be the first openly gay player in the NFL.

“I don’t think he’s courageous. I think what he’s doing is positioning himself very shrewdly. He’s very shrewd in case the draft doesn’t go the way he wants,” Burkman said of Sam.

Jason Collins became the first openly gay athlete to play in a major men’s team sport on Sunday when he suited up with the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets.

Asked which lawmakers might sponsor the bill, Burkman said on WJLA he wouldn’t name anyone yet.

“I could but I won’t,” said Burkman. “To protect their privacy.”

In the next three weeks, Burkman said, he projects 36 House members and six senators will back the measure.

“We think the legislation can go through ... I think I can drive it through.” 

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