NFL to include gay discussion at Rookie Symposium

USA TODAY Sports

The symposium has not addressed the issue in seven years

The NFL will include former NFL players speaking on the issue of sexual orientation at the upcoming Rookie Symposium, according to ESPN. Jane McManus spoke with NFL human resources officer Robert Gulliver:

Gulliver said the league isn't anticipating one of its own players is on the verge of coming out, but in the wake of Jason Collins' decision to come out to Sports Illustrated in April, sports leagues are preparing players with the goal of having a harassment-free work place.

"I would not be surprised if there are more players coming out," Gulliver said.

Contrary to the ESPN report, the NFL Rookie Symposium has previously featured discussion about sexual orientation. Openly gay former NFL defensive end Esera Tuaolo was a speaker on the topic in 2006. Seven years ago, NFL players were further ahead on the issue than even Tuaolo had realized. From our 2006 report:

What shocked Tuaolo was the reaction to his stories. Having been one of the bright-eyed macho 22-year-olds who had just gotten a big ego boost in the draft, he know the group was usually dominated by a lot of jokes and laughter. Instead, when he spoke, the room was silent with rookies around the room nodding their heads in agreement with what he was saying.

We're hopeful the NFL will recruit a couple powerful voices to lead the conversations. A combination of Michael Irvin and either Tuaolo or the powerful Wade Davis would be great, as the men represent different perspectives and can speak loudly to Christianity. Plus, Irvin's storied career -- and his connection to the issue -- make him an ideal candidate.

Various organizations -- including You Can Play, GLAAD and Athlete Ally -- have been working with the NFL to advance the conversation in the league on sexual orientation.

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