Will an NFL Player Come Out This Year?
A number of media outlets are reporting that an active NFL player may soon come out of the closet. There's yet to be an active openly gay athlete in men's professional football, baseball, basketball or hockey, so the announcement would be astonishing.
According to a report by CBS Sports' Mike Freeman, a gay active NFL player is debating whether or not he should come out in the next few months. There have been a number of athletes who have announced that they're gay after they've retired but Freeman says this athlete will continue to play.
Freeman also writes that current and former players told him that the athlete is not worried about the reaction from his teammates, but is concerned about his fans.
"I honestly think the players of the NFL have been ready for an openly gay player for quite some time now," Scott Fujita, a free-agent linebacker told Freeman. "Trust me, the coming out of a player would create much bigger waves outside the locker room than inside. "The way I've seen the conversation around LGBT issues evolve, especially in the past few years, has been encouraging."
He added that athletes are more accepting than they have been in the past and players who have issues with homosexuality would still be able to "coexist and accept a gay teammate."
LGBT rights supporters in the sports world have been working to help that the athlete in question. They want him to have a good support system if he does choose to come out.
"We want to let this NFL player -- or any closeted gay player -- know that you have backup. Your community, whether it is your teammates or your fan base is here to support you," Hudson Taylor, founder and executive director of Athlete Ally, a group working to end homophobia in sports, said in a statement. Fujita, an ambassador for the group, said he doesn't want the athlete to feel pressured into coming out.
"Everyone is different and has his or her own way of living life. At the same time, encouraging fans to stand up for inclusion in sports is fundamental to Athlete Ally's mission and inextricably bound to moments like this."
Taylor told the Huffington Post on Tuesday that Athlete Ally and representatives from other groups will be meeting with NFL officials next week to talk about creating a LGBT-friendly environment.
"The conversations are being had, the work is being done and I think that is indicative of where we are as an athletic community and where it is we are going," Taylor said. He added that he didn't know the player Freeman wrote about but wasn't surprised that an NFL player plans to come out.
"Certainly the coming-out process is different for everyone," Taylor said. "Whether that is what the individual's family thinks or where they are on an athlete coming out, there's a fan base, there are contracts, there are endorsements -- there's a lot to consider in coming out."
Over the past few years, athletes have been supporting the LGBT community more and more. Baltimore Ravens' linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo has been an incredible ally and even spoke in front of the Supreme Court this week while the justices heard arguments against Proposition 8.
"This isn't about one player, it's about all of us," Ayanbadejo, who is chairman of the Athlete Ally Advisory Board, said in a statement. "It's about being a good teammate and a loyal fan. It's about respect and everything the NFL stands for."
OutSports notes that over 30 current and former professional athletes and coaches signed a SCOTUS brief that urges the high court to overturn Prop. 8.
"Certainly if there is a critical mass of straight allies who are speaking out, the process of coming out will be a lot easier for any athlete," Taylor told HuffPo.
Earlier this month, rumors began to pick up after social media websites claimed that Josh Gorges, the captain of the Montreal Canadiens, would announce he is gay. But OutSports quickly put the rumors to rest and the website's Cyd Zeigler wrote Gorges isn't gay and that he's "engaged to marry his girlfriend -- Imagine their surprise when they heard he is gay and coming out of the closet! To our knowledge -- and we've make some inquiries -- there is no Montreal Canadien planning to come out of the closet any time soon. And even if he were, we'd encourage him to stay in the closet until the season is over."