Coming Out in the NFL

By Kristen Hassey

The possibility of the NFL having an openly gay football player is near, according to recent reports. This leads to a few questions. How will it affect his career? Is the league ready? Are the fans ready? Are the players ready? Many think they are, not to mention fully prepared to support this anonymous player, who is considering revealing his sexuality.

With Supreme Court hearings on same-sex marriage coming this week, a number of NFL players have spoken out and shown their support for homosexual couples. Scott Fujita, a linebacker for the Cleveland Browns, wrote in the New York Times about teaching his three young daughters to be accepting of everyone regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation. “Believe it or not, conversations about issues like gay marriage take place in locker rooms every day…For some of my friends who raise personal objections to marriage equality, they still recognize the importance of being accepting,” he said.

Fujita is not the only one fighting for same-sex marriage rights. Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe and Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brandon Ayanbadejo, among others, filed a brief in the Supreme Court case challenging the California law against same-sex marriage.

Chris Culliver

However, not everyone has been so accepting. When asked if he has ever been approached by “gay guys” or if any members of the 49ers were homosexual, Chris Culliver of the San Francisco 49ers responded, “I don’t do the gay guys man, I don’t do that. Nah, we ain’t got no gay people on the team. They gotta get up outta here if they do. Can’t be with that sweet stuff. Nah, can’t be in the locker room.” The 49ers reacted by rejecting Culliver’s comments and stating that they, “have and always will proudly support the LGBT community.”

These instances can lead us to assume that a majority of players and teams would be accepting and supportive of their players and teammates coming out and continuing their career in the NFL.

But what about the fans?

According to reports, this anonymous player is most worried about the reactions of homophobic fans. Scott Fujita agrees with these concerns. “Trust me, the coming out of a player would create much bigger waves outside the locker room than inside,” he said.

However, many feel that while the news my cause an initial shock and some fans may react negatively, in the long run, NFL fans are loyal to their teams and ultimately care more about wins and losses than the players’ personal lives. Houston linebacker, Connor Barwin said, “The first guy that does come out in the NFL might confide in some of his friends and it might spread and be accepted throughout the locker room. And people would just get to know he’s gay and people will move on with football, the season and their life and realize it’s not a big deal at all.”

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