Athletes Still Wrestle With Possibility of Out Teammate
In the wake of the possibility that an NFL player may come out in the next few months, some athletes say they would totally welcome a gay teammate, while others claim they would still have a problem.
New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski told ESPN that he'd be fine with having a gay player on his team. When he was asked how the Patriots would receive an openly gay player, Gronkowski said, "I got this question before, about a year ago, and I basically will say the same answer that I did a year ago. You've got to accept the player. Everyone has their own ways to live their life and as long as he's respecting me, keeping distance, respecting myself, I'll respect him back." His comments came on Wednesday in an interview with Stephen A. Smith and Ryan Ruocco on ESPN Radio New York.
"If he's being a great teammate and he's a guy on the field doing a great job, well then you've got nothing to complain about. He's another teammate and another friend."
In another interview with OutSports, Gronkowski made a similar statement and said he would accept any player regardless of sexual orientation - just as long as he is a good teammate and is "being respectful."
During Wednesday’s interview, Gronkowski was asked if other athletes in the NFL shared his feelings.
"I’m not really sure," he said. "I never went around asking players on my team or in the NFL, ’Hey, what would you think if someone on our team is gay? How would you take it?’ I never thought of that, and never asked anyone that and never tried to find out if there is [a gay player] on the team."
Last week, a number of media outlets were reporting that an active player in the NFL was debating whether he should come out or not, after a report by CBS Sports was published. The move would be a landmark decision, since there’s yet to be an active openly gay athlete in men’s professional football, baseball, basketball or hockey.
LGBT activists and officials from the NFL are working together to prepare as solid support system in case the athlete does decide to come out. Baltimore Ravens’ linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, who has been a strong supporter of gay rights, is a chairman of the Athlete Ally, a group working to end homophobia in sports, and said in a statement, "This isn’t about one player, it’s about all of us. It’s about being a good teammate and a loyal fan. It’s about respect and everything the NFL stands for."
Even though a handful of athletes have said they’d be OK with an openly gay teammate, some remain opposed to the idea. According to separate article by CBS Sports, Seattle Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons says that an out player would be a "selfish act." Though he claims he has no problem with a gay player, he says the act of coming out while in the NFL isn’t right.
Clemons took to Twitter and wrote, "Who on Gods earth is this person saying he’s coming out of the close in the NFL?" The athlete’s followers tweeted back to him and one Twitter user replied, "Who knows, but honestly is that a problem? It’s his/her choice isn’t it?"
Clemons said, "If you don’t do it when you were in high school or college then why wait til your in the NFL? Whoever he is he didn’t just start." When he was asked if he was against a player coming out or against a gay player waiting until he’s in the NFL to come out, he said, "I’m not against anyone but I think it’s a selfish act. They just trying to make themselves bigger than the team."
Some fans backlashed and said Clemons was being homophobic but the football player defended himself and said, "No one said anything about be a homophobic. I just think something’s should be left at home."
Clemons may have some issues with a gay teammate, or at least with one coming out, but San Francisco 49ers’s cornerback Chris Culliver came under fire when he made anti-gay comments during an interview - just days his team was to enter the 2013 Super Bowl and face the Baltimore Ravens.
"I don’t do the gay guys man," said Culliver. "I don’t do that. No, we don’t got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do. Can’t be with that sweet stuff. Nah...can’t be...in the locker room man. Nah."
After making national headlines for his remarks, Culliver underwent back peddled and apologized. He also underwent sensitivity training and worked with the Trevor Project.