NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A major barrier in American professional sports could soon be broken, according to a report by Mike Freeman of CBSSports.com.
“Based on interviews over the past several weeks with current and former players, I’m told that a current gay NFL player is strongly considering coming out publicly within the next few months,” Freeman reported Monday.
According to Freeman, the player would then “attempt to continue his career.” He said his sources wouldn’t name the player.
Some players have come out after retirement, though there has never been an active gay professional athlete in a major U.S. team sport.
San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver apologized leading up to the Super Bowl for making “ugly” anti-gay comments regarding locker room culture. The NFL recently came under fire after one or more teams allegedly inquired into prospects’ sexual preferences at the scouting combine.
Still, Freeman said he was told the player “feels the time is now for someone to take this step.”
KEIDEL: Equal rights under the lights
“This player’s true concern, I’m told, is not the reaction inside an NFL locker room but outside of it,” Freeman wrote. “The player fears he will suffer serious harm from homophobic fans, and that is the only thing preventing him from coming out.”
Several current NFL players have called for equality and acceptance — in and out of the locker room. Supporters have included Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo and free-agent linebacker Scott Fujita.
In an op-ed published Saturday in the New York Times, Fujita said “conversations about issues like gay marriage take place in locker rooms every day.”
“In many respects, the football locker room is a microcosm of society,” Fujita wrote. “While there is certainly an element of bravado in our sport, football players are not the meatheads many think we are. For some of my friends who raise personal objections to marriage equality, they still recognize the importance of being accepting. And many of them also recognize that regardless of what they choose to believe or practice at home or at their church, that doesn’t give them the right to discriminate. I am encouraged by how I’ve seen such conversations evolve.”
The Supreme Court will hear arguments this week on California’s Proposition 8, the amendment that banned same-sex marriage in the state. Fujita, Giants co-owner Steve Tisch and other notables in the NFL recently filed a brief in support of same-sex marriage, according to Freeman.
NFL Players Association president Domonique Foxworth wrote his own op-ed for USA Today on Sunday titled, “Football supports gay marriage.”
“Athletes have long been among the most prominent agents for social change,” the former player wrote. “We are proud of our role on the front lines of civil rights. We have stood up for issues that are bigger than the game we play, and though the topics debated may change over the years, the principle is the same: We fundamentally believe that all people deserve equal rights.”
In February, Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs told WFAN radio that a gay teammate would be accepted in Baltimore’s locker room.
“Some locker rooms are different, I only can speak for my own,” Suggs said. “No, I don’t think (an openly gay player) would have a tough time in our locker room. We have a really laid-back, chill locker room, and we welcome everybody. We accept everybody for who they are.”
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