Denver-based NFL draft analyst and radio host Benjamin Allbright says he has talked to two veteran NFL players who are gay and would go public if the media didn't make a big deal out of it. Allbright tweeted:
Spoke with two veteran NFL players this month who are gay, and would publicly come out if they knew "media wouldn't make it a thing."— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) July 27, 2015
Both said teammates "mostly know," and are "supportive." Say most who know "just avoid it [the subject] altogether."— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) July 27, 2015
Re: last two tweets both players fearful of media/public, say team/teammates are supportive.— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) July 27, 2015
I'm calling bullshit on one part of this. Not that Allbright didn't talk to gay players, since they do exist. And I bet those were their reasons they stated to him for not going public. But they are more excuses than reasons since they absolutely know the media will make this a big deal; since that won't change, this gives them the pretext to not come out.
I can understand the reluctance to a degree. I have been saying that the single biggest impediment to a pro male athlete coming out publicly as gay is that you can't do it quietly. The media (and most of the public) would be very supportive, but the athlete would have to deal with a lot of attention initially. With zero out players in the NFL, NBA, NHL or Major League Baseball, a coming out is still news.
Look at all the attention Jason Collins and Michael Sam got. Collins was a free agent when he came out and near the end of his career, while Sam had not yet been drafted when he came out. Yet their stories dominated the media, even if it was almost all positive. The reaction if an active NFL player, a starter or backup, came out would be at least as big. And almost no athlete wants to get that much attention for something so personal.
However, this reaction is overblown. Yes, the initial attention would be huge but it would die down fairly quickly as history has shown. Very few people paid much attention to Collins once he played a few games with the Nets and his story had been picked over; there was nothing new to talk about. The same happened with Sam, who went through training camp with the Rams last summer with not as much scrutiny as everyone thought. Rams Coach Jeff Fisher has repeatedly stated that Sam was not a distraction, an assertion supported by Rams players. In the MLS, Robbie Rogers quickly became just another player (in a good way).
These anonymous NFL players should strongly consider coming out since it would help countless young gay athletes see that it is possible to be gay and play their favorite sport. Collins, Sam and Rogers have become role models to LGBT athlete everywhere and lives have been saved.
These gay NFL players can work with their team to make their coming out as painless as possible. Maybe training camp or during the season isn't the best, but there is a long offseason to plan a strategy. Get the media blitz out of the way and I guarantee the story dies down; it always does as the media move on to the next thing.
The good they would do would far outweigh the media "making it a thing." After all, this report says these guys want to come out. The media should not be used as a shield by someone who would be in position to come out positively and make a difference. If these two gay players are sincere about wanting to come out publicly, I hope they decide to take the plunge one day. Despite what they might fear now, they won't regret it.