Some of the most famous players currently playing in the NFL are gay, according to former player and LGBTQ rights advocate Brendon Ayanbadejo.
We already knew closeted players are out there, but Ayanbadejo’s comments to TMZ confirm that some of the league’s most recognizable names are waiting for the right moment to come out.
So we can understand why a career athlete — especially one with household name recognition and all the endorsement deals that come with it — would be hesitant to make their sexuality a headline.
That’s the catch-22. It’s been previously reported that some gay players would be comfortable coming out if the media wouldn’t treat it as a big story, but the only way that will happen is with a critical mass of players coming out.
NFL draft analyst and radio host Benjamin Allbright Tweeted in July of last year:
Gay players don’t want to shine a spotlight on their sexuality, but until they step into the light and show that it’s not “a thing,” nothing will change.
And while the above Tweets suggest there is support among fellow teammates, homophobia is arguably stitched more into American football than any other sport.
Just last month, gay NFL reporter Chris Hine came out in order to call out the antigay culture he’s observed while working closely with the NFL.
He argued that the professional adults in the room set a tone that trickles down to college, high school — even junior high school campuses.
In 2014, a group of seven high school football players ranging in age from 15 to 17 were charged with sex crimes after an antigay hazing ritual in the school’s locker room. That’s to say nothing of the homophobic bullying, teasing and harassment that takes place on school campuses daily.
Where could kids possibly be learning that it isn’t OK to be gay and be an athlete?
Coming out will always be a deeply personal choice, no matter who you are, but we hope these players take into consideration the wave of good they could do by stepping temporarily into that uncomfortable spotlight.
Ayanbadejo says gay NFL superstars are “already here, we just don’t know who they are. They’re already amongst us.”
It will take some brave, perhaps awkward steps to help speed up progress.
See Ayanbadejo’s interview, in which he also says he supports teams boycotting states with antigay laws, below: