A survey by ESPN.com of the top college football recruits found that nearly three-quarters would sign with a school that has an openly gay player. It's a sign, the survey found, of increased acceptance of LGBT people among young Americans.
ESPN.com conducted a wide-ranging survey of the top 300 high school football recruits in the nation, and 72.9 percent of the respondents said they would select a program where there is an openly gay player on the roster. ...Offensive tackle Matt Burrell Jr., a four-star player from Woodbridge, Virginia, said he was a little bit surprised with the results of the survey, but with an openly gay family member, he was pleased that many of college football's future stars "believe in acceptance rather than rejection."
"It would be an honor to play with somebody that has that much confidence to come out when it's still considered wrong by some people," Burrell, the nation's No. 43-ranked player, said. "I have a gay uncle, and I love him for who he is. But I think if you ask a majority of the players in high school they would be OK with it. There will be some that might have some issues with it, but some will always complain about anything. But if you're living in a shell and not happy keeping a secret, then you're not living to your full potential."
"It would be honor." That's quite a statement and stunning change from longheld beliefs about how players would accept a gay teammate. Offensive tackle Martez Ivey of Florida, the nation's No. 2 ranked prospect, told Jeremy Crabtree: "If they were gay and came out, honestly most everybody at our school would already know. People don't seem to be too shy about expressing themselves anymore, especially when you're in high school. If it doesn't affect them, then why should it affect me? Who cares who he likes?"
Even among those discomforted by the idea, there was nuance. One player, who said he was bothered by the idea of a teammate finding him sexually attractive, added: "I think it would probably be better for him to come out in advance instead of somebody finding out a big secret. I wouldn't have anything against him. I wouldn't treat him wrong or anything. I would just be more, you know, at ease if I knew what the situation was."
Two quarterbacks, Drew Lock and Sam Darnold, told ESPN.com they'd be more concerned over a teammate's alcohol or pot abuse than his sexual orientation.
One longtime football coach, who said he has seen a huge increase in acceptance of gays among his players, referenced Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier: "If you surveyed those same [players] that you did for ESPN and ask them would they go to a college with a minority player on the team, they would think you're crazy. I think the youth of today's view on sexual orientation is much like it was on race years ago."
Times are changing, despite the Tony Dungy's of the world, and even these macho football stars are evidence of this.