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NFLPA exec George Atallah: Locker room will 'embrace' gay teammate

NFLPA's George Atallah

As the NFL Players Association gears up for its second annual Collegiate Bowl, Outsports talked with the union's assistant executive director of external affairs, George Atallah, about homophobia among their members, and the impact of an out gay player.

Atallah acknowledged there are both gay players and men who have religious and moral issues with homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Atallah pointed to Brendon Ayanbadejo and Matt Birk -- two men with opposing views on the issue of same-sex marriage -- who remain friends and co-exist on the same team despite fighting for different sides of the issue in 2012.

“We have a constituency of 2,000 players," Atallah told Outsports. "It’s unrealistic to believe that any 2,000 people are going to have the same viewpoints and values as you might have.”

Despite a difference of opinion, Atallah said a gay player wouldn't have a problem in the locker room as guys are used to respecting their differences.

“Despite the outspoken nature of certain players," Atallah said, "there doesn't seem to be an issue in the locker room with it at all. Something may change if a player decides to reveal his sexuality to his teammates. That’s his choice. Things that I know from players I talk to, once you’re part of that locker room you’re part of that locker room. Beyond a familial feeling, if a player decides he wants to be so bold as to step out, then my expectation is that the locker room will embrace him as a teammate.”

Atallah bemoans what Outsports has mentioned many times before: The backward nature of most of the media's reporting on these professional athletes. He pointed to several examples of athletes championing causes as evidence that these men are not simply meatheads but active, conscientious citizens of society.

“There is a wide range of social consciousness that is very much under-reported," Atallah said. "The awareness of this issue has been increased over the last couple of years. And the level of overall social activeness is pretty significant. You saw it post-Sandy Hook on the issue of gun control. You see it on international affairs and a number of issues.”

You can check out some of the current and future members of the NFLPA at their Collegiate Bowl at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles, Jan. 19. Tickets to the game are only $15.