Four NFL players are considering coming out as gay in one joint announcement, a player claimed on Friday.
The former Baltimore Ravens (and currently free-agent) linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, who is an outspoken advocate of LGBT rights, said the players were “trying to be organized” so they could come out on the same day, in what he said would be a “monumental” occasion for the NFL. Ayanbadejo said he was helping to lay plans for the announcement in co-ordination with the National Football League. A joint announcement would spread the burden of coming out, he said, drawing focus away from just one person.
There are currently no openly gay NFL players, although there has been speculation in recent weeks that a current player is “strongly considering” coming out.
Ayanbadejo, who has long been a vocal advocate of same-sex marriage and other LGBT issues, was honoured along with Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe at the Straight for Equality Gala in New York on Thursday. His suggestion that four players could reveal they were gay at the same time would be an unprecedented moment in a sport dogged by homophobia. The linebacker, who was cut from the Ravens despite being part of their Super Bowl-winning squad last season, made the comments in an interview with the Baltimore Sun on Friday.
“I think it will happen sooner than you think,” Ayanbadejo said when asked about the possibility of a player coming out. “We’re in talks with a handful of players who are considering it. There are up to four players being talked to right now and they’re trying to be organized so they can come out on the same day together. It would make a major splash and take the pressure off one guy. It would be a monumental day if a handful or a few guys come out.”
While Ayanbadejo and Kluwe have been outspoken in their support for gay team-mates, in recent months other NFL players have been criticised for homophobic remarks.
In the build-up to Super Bowl XLVII, the San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver said “‘I don’t do the gay guys, man”, when asked about the possibility of having a gay team-mate. Culliver suggested gay players should only come out after their career was over. Last month, the Seattle Seahawks defensive end Christopher Clemons said if an NFL player was to come out it would “immediately separate a locker room and divide a team”. He said it would be a “selfish act”.
Ayandebajo told the Baltimore Sun that he accepted that not everyone would be welcoming if a player were to come out, but said that if a group of players were to make the announcement together that could alleviate the situation.
“Of course, there would be backlash,” he said. “If they could share the backlash, it would be more positive. It’s cool. It’s exciting. We’re in talks with a few guys who are considering it. The NFL and organizations are already being proactive and open if a player does it and if something negative happens. We’ll see what happens.”