The group voted unanimously in favour of that answer. That’s what the player had ultimately decided. Everything was decided. Everything pointed to that eventuality. One of the NFL’s players was going to come out as gay and still play for the team.
What had come before that time demonstrated the NFL’s progressive and open-minded nature. And what followed demonstrated how well the game is still wary of it in some quarters.
This report is based on conversations with around a couple of dozen, including former and current players, league executives, and campaigners for homosexual rights.
There were people participating on the front lines of the debate that almost resulted in the first out gay NFL player. All the more highlighting the secrecy, sensitivity, and terror surrounding the matter is the fact that none of the participants wished to be named. They also declined to reveal either the organization or the individual involved.
The First Steps Toward Homosexualism
In the early spring of this year, a free agent who had been living in secrecy about his sexuality came out to a close circle of friends.
The group of pals, including current and previous players as well as individuals with ties to the NFL, reached out to a few clubs to determine whether or not they would be interested in signing the player and whether or not they would be comfortable with his being open about his sexual orientation.
Several of the teams we reached out to declined. It was explained to the player that they don’t currently have a need for his position. He informed a recently resigned player that he thought teams weren’t interested because they were afraid of the backlash a gay NFL player might face.
One squad, though, expressed enthusiasm and stated they would participate. It wasn’t a half-hearted endorsement or a conditional approval.
The team made clear that it didn’t mind if indeed the player is gay and that it wouldn’t be a problem if he came out after signing.
According to the athlete, the agreement and accompanying announcement were anticipated to take place in June. There would be one month for everyone involved to process the information before the start of training camp.
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I Mean, That’s About What You’d Have Guessed
During these meetings with the team in early March or early April, rumours began to circulate that an out gay player might soon join the squad. The signing was imminent, but word was beginning to slip out.
I informed the team that one of their players was really considering coming out. As part of my work, I spoke with numerous current NFL players. One group of players heard that the team had signed an openly gay player.
In April, former Baltimore Raven and LGBT rights activist Brendon Ayanbadejo predicted that several openly gay players could come out.
Even though he eventually backtracked on the exact number, he maintained his original prediction that a gay athlete will when becoming onto to the NFL scene.
Now, after a few months have passed, it’s probable that Ayanbadejo was correct. Team officials, current players, and even some previous ones now believe that more than one gay player was prepared to come out.
When asked by Bleacher Report about the possibility of the team having an out gay player, Ayanbadejo responded, “I don’t understand how close we are.” “I have a hunch there are gays working in the NFL, but I have no way of knowing who they are.”
What emerges from the sources is very extraordinary. There are probably at least a couple of gay athletes who are thinking about coming out but don’t know each other because they live in separate regions of the country and have distinct groups of friends and agents.
One supporter for gay rights called this time period “the springtime of enthusiasm again for NFL and gay rights,” when it seemed like the league was finally going to accept gay players. The atmosphere was electric. Everything pointed to that eventuality.
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The Abundance Of Spring Was Too Much To Bear!
After two athletes this past spring found teams willing to sign them spite of knowing they eventually come out, it appeared that the wall was about to come tumbling down.
One more player, a highly prominent defensive back, is mentioned in this piece with the first guy. Teams in the AFC were interested in him despite the fact that they understood he was gay.
The team’s coaches were polled about whether or not they would accept a gay player. In a word, yes. An official on the club claims that certain defensive players were asked casual questions. Every single player we polled assured us there wouldn’t be any problems. The player’s identity was kept hidden from them.
Team officials from rival franchises told Bleacher Report that the first player, the player who was planning to join in June, learned in the middle to late stages of May that the interested team would no longer be recruiting him. Fear of widespread media publicity, the player was told, was the reason.
NBA star Jason Collins came out as homosexual in a personal essay published by Sports Illustrated at the end of April. This transformed into one of the most talked-about sports stories in recent memory.
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Why Haven’t The Players Simply Came Out As Gay Already?
Fear was again the most common response. The signing will not take place if they are made public beforehand. The athletes are committed to social justice, but they also have a strong desire to get on the field and play football. The fact that Collins is still jobless after the announcement will be cited by some.
One other issue is the organization itself. They have been extremely slow at times in dealing with this matter. An activist for LGBT rights who has worked closely with the NFL described the league’s efforts to improve its treatment of homosexual players as “like shifting the direction of a cruise liner.”
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There’s also the possibility that a prominent collegiate player is gay and has been out for a long time, talking about it in interviews. By the moment he’s taken high inside the NFL draught, everyone has already spoken about and dissected his sexuality to death.