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Homosexuality in American football

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Title: Homosexuality in American football  
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Subject: History of American football, National Football League controversies, Jerry Smith (American football), Homosexuality in sports, Michael Sam
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Homosexuality in American football

Few American football players have come out as gay. Six former National Football League (NFL) players have come out publicly after they retired.[1] In college football, Division III player Conner Mertens came out as bisexual in January 2014, becoming the first active college football player at any level to publicly come out. In August 2014, Arizona State player Chip Sarafin became the first publicly out active Division I player.[2] Former Division I player Michael Sam publicly came out in February 2014 after his college career. Later that year, he was selected by the St. Louis Rams in 2014 NFL Draft and became the first publicly gay player drafted in the league, but was released before he could play in the league although was signed by the Dallas Cowboys practice squad later that week. If he does play in the league at some point, Sam could become the NFL's first active player who was publicly out.[1]


The macho environment that exists in football along with the hypermasculinity promoted by sportscasters make it difficult for a player to come out.[3][4] Heterosexuality is flaunted in NFL locker rooms with the passing of pornographic magazines and videos, and visits to strip clubs.[5] Gay slurs are sometimes used in the locker room. Former NFL player Mark Schlereth said the slurs were not necessarily gay bashing, believing they were "more out of ignorance than anything else. It doesn't excuse it, it's just the way it is."[6]

Prior to Super Bowl XLVII in 2013, San Francisco 49ers player Chris Culliver on media day during an interview with The Artie Lange Show, was asked if he thought any gay players were on his team which he replied, "No, we don't got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do.... Can't be with that sweet stuff. Nah…can't be…in the locker room, man. Nah." He also opined that any gay players should wait 10 years after retiring before coming out.[7] Culliver received backlash for his comments.[8] Then-Baltimore Ravens player Brendon Ayanbadejo, an advocate for same-sex marriage, estimated that 50 percent of the league agreed with Culliver, 25 percent disagreed, and 25 percent were accepting of everyone even if they were not in complete support of issues such as gay marriage.[8][9] Culliver later apologized for his "ugly comments" that were "not what I feel in my heart".[10][11][12]

In 2013, the NFL Rookie Symposium planned for the first time to have speakers on the issue of sexual orientation.[13] That same year, NFL player Chris Kluwe was released by the Minnesota Vikings, which he believed was due to his being outspoken in support of same-sex marriage. He said that special teams coach Mike Priefer in 2012 made homophobic remarks and criticized the player for his views on same-sex marriage, a charge Priefer denied. Kluwe also alleged that head coach Leslie Frazier told him to stop speaking out on same-sex marriage.[14] In December, former teammates on the 1993 Houston Oilers said that at least two key players on the roster were generally known by the team to be gay, and were accepted by the team. Teammate Bubba McDowell said showering with the gay teammates was “no big deal.”[15]

Players coming out

Division II college football player Brian Sims came out to his team in 2000 while playing for Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania,[16] and publicly told his story in 2009.[17] Alan Gendreau was open to his Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders football team from 2008 through 2011, but they made no mention of it to the media.[18] Otherwise, he could have been the first publicly out gay active player in Division I college football.[19] Outsports, a Web site specializing in gays and sports, released his story about being a gay football player on April 23, 2013.[18][19] In January 2014, Conner Mertens of the Division III Willamette Bearcats publicly came out as bisexual, becoming the first active college football player at any level to publicly come out.[20][21]

After he retired, NFL player David Kopay in 1975 was the first major professional team-sport athlete to come out.[22][23] Many experts believe that the first openly gay active NFL player will not be a current athlete who comes out, but instead an already out high school or college player who ends up in the NFL.[1][19] reported in April 2013 that one NFL team had a player that was not openly gay, but his teammates were aware of his sexual orientation and did not care.[24] That same month, Ayanbadejo said there were up to four NFL players who were considering coming out on the same day with the hope that any backlash would be shared and the pressure on one person reduced.[25] NFL commissioner Roger Goodell emphasized that sexual discrimination was unacceptable in the NFL. His statement came after players said they were asked during the NFL Scouting Combine if they liked girls.[26]

In February 2014, college player Michael Sam publicly came out, and became the first publicly gay player drafted in the NFL when he was selected in the seventh round of the 2014 draft.[21][27] Six months later, Chip Sarafin came out, becoming the first active Division I player to come out.[28]

Players who came out
Name Highest level Position Ref
Davis, WadeWade Davis NFL Defensive back [29]
Gallagher, EdEd Gallagher NCAA Division I Offensive tackle [30]
Gendreau, AlanAlan Gendreau NCAA Division I Placekicker [31]
Harris, KwameKwame Harris NFL Offensive tackle [32]
Kopay, DavidDavid Kopay NFL Running back [33]
McDonald, RayRay McDonald NFL Running back [34]
Mertens, ConnerConner Mertens NCAA Division III Placekicker [20]
Sam, MichaelMichael Sam NFLdagger Defensive end [35]
Sarafin, ChipChip Sarafin NCAA Division I Offensive lineman [28]
Simmons, RoyRoy Simmons NFL Guard [36]
Sims, BrianBrian Sims NCAA Division II Defensive tackle [37]
Smith, JerryJerry Smith* NFL Tight end [38]
Tuaolo, EseraEsera Tuaolo NFL Defensive tackle [39]

* Posthumously outed
dagger Drafted in 2014. Has yet to play in a regular season game in the NFL as of August 2014.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Zeigler, Cyd (April 23, 2013). "Coming out kicking: Openly gay former college kicker tries for the NFL". Outsports. Retrieved April 24, 2013. 
  2. ^ Zeigler, Cyd (August 13, 2014). "Arizona State football offensive lineman Chip Sarafin comes out as gay". Outsports. Retrieved August 18, 2014. 
  3. ^ Stockwell, Anne; McAuley, J. V. (December 24, 1996). "Tackling the NFL closet". The Advocate (723): 51–55.  
  4. ^ Diaz, George (April 27, 2013). "Orlando gay kicker wants to put boot to NFL stereotypes". Orlando Sentinel. Archived from the original on April 28, 2013. 
  5. ^ Morton, Danelle (June 10, 2013). "Out on the edge". ESPN The Magazine. Archived from the original on May 30, 2013. 
  6. ^ Covitz, Randy (November 2, 2009). "Gay athletes don't fit in what is perceived as a homophobic NFL". Archived from the original on April 27, 2013. 
  7. ^ Rogers, Martin (April 18, 2012). "Report: Niners CB says openly gay players would not be welcomed on the team". Retrieved January 30, 2013. 
  8. ^ a b Burke, Chris (April 23, 2013). "Alan Gendreau trying to make NFL as openly gay kicker". Archived from the original on April 27, 2013. 
  9. ^ Wetzel, Dan (January 31, 2013). "Chris Culliver's remarks, Manti Te'o episode make it hard for active gay athlete to go public". Archived from the original on April 27, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Chris Culliver sorry for 'ugly' remarks". January 31, 2013. Retrieved January 31, 2013. 
  11. ^ Wesseling, Chris (January 30, 2013). "Chris Culliver apologizes for anti-gay comments".  
  12. ^ Breech, John (January 30, 2013). "49ers' Chris Culliver: Openly gay player not welcome". Retrieved January 30, 2013. 
  13. ^ McManus, Jane (June 19, 2013). "Rookies to hear about sexuality". Archived from the original on June 20, 2013. 
  14. ^ Goessling, Ben (January 2, 2014). "Kluwe: Cut due to outspoken views". Archived from the original on January 3, 2014. 
  15. ^ Smith, Brian T. (December 26, 2013). "Two members of 1993 Oilers were gay; teammates knew, didn’t care". Houston Chronicle. Archived from the original on January 22, 2014. 
  16. ^ Zeigler Jr., Cyd (April 27, 2009). "Former college football captain was openly gay". Archived from the original on January 15, 2013. 
  17. ^ Zeigler, Cyd (August 24, 2011). "Moment #43: Brian Sims tells his story nine years later". Archived from the original on April 27, 2013. 
  18. ^ a b Watson, Graham (April 23, 2013). "Former Middle Tennessee kicker was openly gay with teammates, coaches". Retrieved April 23, 2013. 
  19. ^ a b c Branch, John (April 23, 2013). "A Potential Pioneer, Just Looking for a Job".  
  20. ^ a b "Active college player comes out". January 29, 2014. Archived from the original on February 10, 2014. 
  21. ^ a b Connelly, Chris (February 9, 2014). "Mizzou's Michael Sam says he's gay".  
  22. ^ Garber, Greg (January 15, 1999). "Still waiting for a hero". Archived from the original on April 28, 2013. 
  23. ^ Wise, Mike (April 27, 2013). "Dave Kopay knows what questions should be asked by NFL". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on April 28, 2013. 
  24. ^ Freeman, Mike (April 27, 2013). "Teammates, coaches knew of gay NFL player and didn't care". Archived from the original on April 27, 2013. 
  25. ^ "Advocate: Players may come out". April 27, 2013. Archived from the original on April 27, 2013. 
  26. ^ Battista, Judy (April 24, 2013). "N.F.L. Will Advise Teams on Discrimination Policy". The New York Times. Archived from the original on April 28, 2013. 
  27. ^ Belson, Ken (May 10, 2014). "In Historic Pick, Rams Take Michael Sam in Final Round of Draft". The New York Times. Archived from the original on May 11, 2014. 
  28. ^ a b Fischer, Bryan (August 13, 2014). "Arizona State OL Chip Sarafin announces he's gay".  
  29. ^ "Wade Davis Talks about Being Gay: Former NFL player working with LGBTQ youth for the first time".  
  30. ^ "Ed Gallagher, who turned suicide attempt to activism, dies".  
  31. ^ Branch, John (April 23, 2013). "A Potential Pioneer, Just Looking for a Job". New York Times. Retrieved April 24, 2013. 
  32. ^ "Domestic charges for Kwame Harris". Associated Press. January 29, 2013. Archived from the original on January 29, 2013. 
  33. ^ Garber, Greg (15 January 1999). "Still waiting for a hero".  
  34. ^ Kroeger, Brooke (2004). Passing: When People Can't Be Who They Are. New York: PublicAffairs. p. 238.  
  35. ^ Sessler, Marc (May 10, 2014). "Michael Sam drafted by St. Louis Rams at No. 249".  
  36. ^ Simmons, Roy; DiMarco, Damon; Fisher, David; Hester, Jimmy (2006). Out of Bounds: Coming Out of Sexual Abuse, Addiction, and My Life of Lies in the NFL Closet. Carroll & Graf Publishers. p. 222.  
  37. ^  
  38. ^ Provenzano, Jim (31 December 2003). "Who was the first gay football player to play in the Super Bowl?".  
  39. ^ Tuaolo, Esera; Luke Cyphers (30 October 2002). "Free and Clear".  
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