Former 49ers and Raiders offensive tackle Kwame Harris says that he regrets not coming out as an active player, but the NFL wasn't ready yet:
Now, there's a decidedly different climate in the NFL. There are still some players who have spoken out against the possibility of a gay teammate, but there are more players who have expressed that they would welcome a gay teammate, just as much as they'd welcome anyone else.
Scott Fujita is currently a free agent, but has played for the Chiefs, Cowboys, Saints, and Browns. He believes that most players wouldn't mind an openly gay teammate at all. The real controversy would be media driven, according to Fujita. He even wrote an essay, published in the New York Times, comparing the battle for gay rights to the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. He believes that it's going to be hard to explain to our children and grandchildren why we as a society alienated homosexuals for so long. He's probably right.
Vikings punter Chris Kluwe and Ravens safety Brandon Ayanbadejo have been the most outspoken about gay rights, and the importance of an openly gay NFL player.
Ayanbadejo has gone to the Supreme Court to protest in support of gay marriage, and Kluwe regularly makes appearances and writes articles in support of gay rights.
Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski was recently asked what his thoughts were on the issue. He gave an answer that appeared to be in support of gay players, but when you dig a little deeper, it's harder to tell.
Wait... keeping distance? So it's fine to have a gay teammate, as long as he doesn't try to be friends with you? Or as long as he doesn't hit on you? What exactly does that mean?
Gronk's comments bring the light one of the true issues. Whoever decides to take the monumental step of being the first openly gay player in the NFL, he better be a damn good player. That's one reason Jackie Robinson was the perfect person to break the color barrier in Major League Baseball. He was a great person, but also a great player. As much controversy as there was surrounding him at the time, he was vital to the Dodgers.
In the vicious world of the NFL, if a player was bringing controversy to a team, even simply in the sense of media distraction, he would probably get cut unless he's totally vital to the team.
In fact, Seahawks DE Chris Clemons says that it would be a selfish move by an openly gay player if he were to announce his sexuality to the media. The Seattle Times has posted his trail of tweets that express doubts about the topic, including quotes like "I think it's a selfish act. They just trying to make themselves bigger than the team."
He also asks why a player would wait until he's in the NFL, and why he wouldn't announce it in high school or college.
The answers to these questions are simple. It's not unreasonable for a gay player to believe that if he announced his homosexuality in high school or college, there's a chance that he might never make it to the NFL, with the level of homophobia that exists in society today. What if he ran into a coach that didn't want to bring attention to his team by having a gay player? What if discrimination closed the door on playing in the NFL, and his career was over before it ever began?
As far as the "bigger than the team" comment, it would be true. The first openly gay player WOULD be bigger than the team. Just like most people have no idea how the 1947 Dodgers finished their season, but they know exactly who Jackie Robinson is, and why he's important.
Clemons paints it as a selfish act. In reality, it's no more selfish than any player who appears in public with his wife or girlfriend. It's merely society's reaction that is different.
Redskins DE Adam Carriker says it wouldn't be a big deal if a Redskins player came out. Kluwe said outright that it wouldn't be a distraction:
Is the NFL ready for an openly gay player? More importantly, is the media ready for it?