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NFL addresses gay issues at Rookie Symposium

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The NFL is addressing gay issues head-on this week, and the Rookie Symposium is part of that. Wade Davis has been working with NFL veterans like James Thrash to convey the best message.

Former Washington Redskins receiver James Thrash led the conversation about gay issues with the NFC rookies on Monday.
Former Washington Redskins receiver James Thrash led the conversation about gay issues with the NFC rookies on Monday.
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

The NFL is conducting its Rookie Symposium this week, and gay issues are front-and-center for the league's new recruits. Held in Ohio each year, the symposium is the league's opportunity to educate new players on various issues from finances and agents to respect for women and drugs.

As part of the NFL's larger initiative to make its teams more supportive workplaces, they are using the Rookie Symposium as another opportunity to educate players on homophobia and other issues surrounding gay players. Wade Davis, executive director of the You Can Play project, has been working with the NFL to develop proper messaging on the issues. He has been training other NFL veterans to share insight and education with both rookies and teams.

At Monday's session with the rookies on the 16 NFC teams, Davis took a back seat as former NFL wide receiver James Thrash talked at length about the issues of trust and respect that revolve around having a gay player on the team.

"You will have a gay teammate at some point," Thrash said, according to Davis. "Now, how do you protect that teammate?"

Davis said this is just one piece of a three-pronged approach the NFL is taking to effectively combat homophobia in the locker room: 1) The Rookie Symposium, 2) the league's broader Respect at Work initiative that is visiting every NFL team before the season starts, and 3) talks by Davis himself to teams to share his personal story. Davis estimates he will have personally visited 10-15 NFL teams this year; He has already spent time with the St. Louis Rams and the Minnesota Vikings.

"The story telling pieces are powerful," Davis said. "Where someone like James thrash can talk about a time when he should have spoken up, where he could have helped bring trust and respect to a teammate and didn't, and now how are you as players going to react in a similar situation."

Davis was also impressed with the conversation about women and violence against women.

On Thursday it's the AFC's turn for the Rookie Symposium, where Davis will be presenting.

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