NFL may be ready for an openly gay player

Is it time for the first openly gay player in the NFL?

4/1/13 in NFL   |   Pat   |   5232 respect

Blog Photo - NFL may be ready for an openly gay playerIt's a controversial issue, with NFL players coming down pretty decisively on both sides. The rumor of an NFL player contemplating whether he should come out of the closet and announce his homosexuality has invoked many reactions. Some good, some bad.

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:

"I love football. Football provided me with some experiences and some opportunities that I wouldn't trade for anything else, but at the same time, the cost was great in asking me to not speak candidly or be able to be open about myself in this complete manner. I didn't see those two things as being compatible, but now when I look back in hindsight, if I could have done it differently, I'd like to think that I would find the strength, or find the fortitude or the grace to make the hard decision."

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.

Nov 18, 2012; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) reacts after his touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts during the first quarter at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Indianapolis Colts 59-24. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY SportsPatriots 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.

"You've got to accept the player. Everyone has their own ways to live their life and as long as he's respecting me, keeping distance, respecting myself, I'll respect him back. If he's being a great teammate and he's a guy on the field doing a great job, well then you've got nothing to complain about. He's another teammate and another friend."

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.

Dec 30, 2012, Seattle, WA, USA; St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford (8) is hit by Seattle Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons (91) during the first quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY SportsThe 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:

"Fans, media -- will an openly gay player be a distraction? Only if you make it one. Only if you insist on denying someone the freedom to live his own life on his own terms, instead of under someone else's control. Stop worrying about who a player dates; worry about his completion percentage, or tackles for loss, or return average. I can promise you, on Sundays the only thing he's worried about is lining up and doing his job to the best of his ability, or else he's going to be cut (just like any of us)."

Is the NFL ready for an openly gay player? More importantly, is the media ready for it?
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4/3/13   |   kobe_lova   |   61973 respect

Jess wrote:
Oh that's a good point, I hadn't thought about that angle

Yeah. It would hurt my soul to hear gay hate speech come out of certain players, but it would be inevitable. Remember that ***hole spewing nonsense around the playoffs? I just...

4/2/13   |   Jess   |   34886 respect

kobe_lova wrote:
I'm not ready for it because I don't want to start to hate players based on their responses. And, it will be such a major issue, I wouldn't be able to ignore it all like I do almost all other media.

Oh that's a good point, I hadn't thought about that angle

4/2/13   |   kobe_lova   |   61973 respect

I'm not ready for it because I don't want to start to hate players based on their responses. And, it will be such a major issue, I wouldn't be able to ignore it all like I do almost all other media.

4/1/13   |   Jess   |   34886 respect

From what I could gather following a twitter conversation between Clem and a few 12's, it seems as if Clemons was saying "why make a big deal out of it?" - that's what I think he means by being selfish in making an announcement. I get it (I would get it if it were any player other than one on my fave team).

4/1/13   |   Akida360   |   26 respect

Gay teammates.....the only reason this is an issue at all is because of the media hype concerning homosexuality. Most of us (actually very few of us these days) already have gay friends, classmates, coworkers, etc that have been there for years that we have accepted and don't think twice about now. The problem in our society is that football is the ultimate machismo game and the knowledge that any of the players are gay will somehow take away from the game. Kwame Harris was a pretty good player but he knew that the NFL would do its best to "protect the shield" and systematically blackball him so he chose not to come out. I believe most players do not care who blocks, tackles, catches, or carries the ball as long as they get the job done on the field. The NFL would be better served by accepting and allowing former players to embrace and become ambassadors of the game, instead of alienating them when they come out to the league.,d.eWU

4/1/13   |   mcleodglen   |   32 respect

don't know what to say... the world is changing i guess.