Two weeks ago, former Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo said that in the very near future, the NFL can expect up to four gay players to come out, possibly on the same day.
That came just a week after a report from Mike Freeman, who wrote that a player is strongly considering coming out within the next few months. And ultimately when he takes that step, the still anonymous individual’s greatest fear isn’t the locker room environment, and those in it who may hold archaic beliefs. That’s been the widely asked question: in a brute sport seemingly rooted in being the manliest man, how will the players react?
Instead, the fan reaction is what’s creating the apprehension, and the locker room isn’t nearly as toxic and unforgiving as those who have never set foot in one will have us believe. We know that now, because there’s reportedly been a gay player in an NFL locker room.
Freeman has checked in again today with another report, this time citing sources who have informed him that for the past few years an NFL team has had a gay player. As far as the public is concerned, the player isn’t openly gay, because we don’t know who he is. And we still don’t, with Freeman quite rightly choosing to keep the name hidden if the player doesn’t yet wish to be revealed.
But on his team and in his locker room, the player’s sexuality was hardly a secret. Even better, it wasn’t an issue, or something anyone cared about at all.
The player was not openly gay but several of the player’s friends on the team knew it. A good dozen players on the team were aware the player dated men, several players on the team told CBSSports.com.
“It was the worst kept secret on the team,” said one player. “Many of us knew and we didn’t care at all.”
This is the money quote, and hopefully it’ll also become the prevailing attitude among fans…
“We saw him as a player,” said the teammate, “not as a gay player.”
When an active player publicly declares his sexuality, it’ll be historic simply because there’s never been an openly-gay player in any North American professional sports league. Then, hopefully the buzz will fade, and no one will care.
That will be the strongest statement of all.