Kerry Rhodes, a free agent safety who last played with the NFL's Arizona Cardinals, said "I'm not gay" after photos surfaced of him being affectionate with another man while on vacation. Rhodes told TMZ:
"Photos have been circulating of my former assistant and I that have caused some rumors regarding my sexuality, and I wanted to address the situation. ... I am not gay. ... The shots were taken during a past vacation in a casual environment with my entire business team."
The photos were posted on Media Takeout, which has run similar stories on other athletes in the past. They show Rhodes with his arm around another man and one where he is carrying him. There is no indication when or where the pictures were taken.
These pictures don't prove anything about Rhodes' sexual orientation and Media Takeout does not say he is gay, though that is their obvious inference and the reason he felt compelled to talk to TMZ. The story is salacious, yet I was somewhat encouraged in reading the comments, with the reaction from many being "who cares if he is gay?" I view it as a measure of progress.
We have written consistently about the best strategy for an athlete to come out, in terms of working with his team management, other players and the media. Yet the first openly gay athlete could possibly be outed by someone with a cellphone camera. Even then, we would need a higher standard than photos, which can so easily be viewed out of context.
The fact that Rhodes felt compelled to publicly declare he is not gay based on three pictures on a website show how this is still a delicate issue for athletes to deal with. It also made it more of a story. I had seen the photos and was not going to write about them since they revealed nothing, yet Rhodes' denial is news (just like Mike Piazza and Jeff Garcia a few years back made news with similar denials). Rhodes did tell TMZ "I support them" when discussing gay athletes.
Drafted by the Jets in 2005, Rhodes played the past three seasons for the Cardinals and is now a free agent.