No team in the NFL has done more outreach to the LGBT community than the New England Patriots. On the flip side, there are few teams that have done less than the Atlanta Falcons.
Yet one man — Falcons assistant general manager Scott Pioli — has been a powerful link between the two. This year Pioli’s quiet support of the LGBT community has come out with the revelations by former NFL player Ryan O’Callaghan and current San Francisco 49ers coach Katie Sowers that they are each gay. Pioli and his support played a prominent role in each of their journeys.
Here are five other LGBT storylines involved these two teams and some of the players.
- Five years ago, in 2012, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski told Outsports he would “cool” with a gay teammate.
- The connections between the two teams also include Thomas Dimitroff, the current Falcons general manager who won two Super Bowls with the Patriots. After Michael Sam came out, Dimitroff said the player’s personal life wasn’t of concern to the Falcons. The team never signed the defensive end.
- In 2015 the Patriots were the only NFL team to sign an amicus brief supporting marriage equality being decided by the Supreme Court. The case, of course, was decided in favor of the LGBT community.
- In 2016 the Falcons were caught asking various NFL Draft prospects if they were gay, a violation of league policy and City of Atlanta law. The coach who levied the questions, Marquand Manuel, has since been elevated by the team to defensive coordinator.
- In 2017 the Patriots sponsored the Gay Bowl, an annual LGBT flag football tournament, the first NFL team to do so. Team owner Robert Kraft attended the closing party for the tournament, giving a short yet powerful speech.
The Falcons and the Patriots will kickoff their Super Bowl LI rematch on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.
Outsports prediction for the game: New England 34, Atlanta 28. With all the talk of a Super Bowl rematch, this game is critical to both the Patriots and Falcons trying to win their division. The Patriots have not been good at home, and they still won’t look great. Just enough for the win.