Lost in the coverage of the Super Bowl was the interview San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis gave to Larry King, where he was asked about a gay player coming out in the one of the four American male pro team sports:
Larry King: How far are we away from a gay- major gay athlete in professional sport? Team sport.
Vernon Davis: Um, I think um, within the next five to six years you’ll see a lot of gay guys come out into the world of sports.
King: Will the NFL be the last place?
Davis: I think the NFL will be the first place.
I was thinking about this ever since I first heard that Michael Sam was going to announce publicly he was gay. I wonder whether Davis knew something specific about Sam or perhaps about another player already in the NFL. Sam was out his senior season at Missouri and played in the 2010 season in college on the same defense as Aldon Smith, who is now a teammate of Davis' in San Francisco. It's not inconceivable that Smith heard something and mentioned it to Davis, since Sam's sexual orientation was known on campus. The interview with King came around the same time as the Senior Bowl in January, where Sam had initially considered coming out. Maybe Davis put 2 and 2 together knowing Sam was draft-eligible and already out in college.
Also, there are already gay players in the NFL and, from what we've heard, some of them are open to select teammates. Maybe Davis assumes one of them might be coming out some time. There is also a third possibility and that is that Davis just figures the NFL is ready to welcome its first openly gay player.
If Michael Sam makes it on an NFL roster in September, he will prove Vernon Davis correct. That is, unless a current NFL player comes out or someone from the NBA, NHL or Major League Baseball beats everyone else to the punch. (Yes, I know Jason Collins was technically active when he came out, but he has not been on an NBA court since making his announcement.) After writing about this issue since we started Outsports in 2000, any of these developments would be a cause for celebration.