Ryan O’Callaghan, the former NFL offensive lineman who came out publicly as gay on Tuesday, told Outsports he has been “overwhelmed” by the response from around the world.
The former New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs tackle said he has heard from many NFL players via phone, email and text, all offering him their support. He said he has also received over 5,000 emails and Facebook messages in just the first 48 hours after his story was published.
We at Outsports and SB Nation expected a strong response, but frankly the attention the story has gotten — of O’Callaghan and his struggle with his sexuality and suicide — has exceeded our expectations. The story was the most-read on the network in the first day and continues to drive heavy traffic even over 48 hours later. For a world with a 24-hour news cycle, that’s huge.
The story has received coverage from just about every sports media outlet in the country including Sports Illustrated, NFL.com, ESPN, Yahoo! Sports, Deadspin, Huffington Post, SB Nation, The Washington Post, Bleacher Report, USA Today, Sporting News, Newsday, The Boston Globe, Rolling Stone, CBS Sports, NBC Sports, and on and on and on. It’s even gotten international coverage in countless publications. The NFL is still king.
O’Callaghan’s Facebook post of the story received over 1,000 comments in the first day:
This story has been a long time coming. I hope I'm able to help other gay people in sports, as some people were there to...Posted by Ryan O'Callaghan on Tuesday, June 20, 2017
The outpouring of support Ryan O’Callaghan has received since coming out publicly earlier this week has been widespread on Twitter as well. People from the sports media, athletes, politicians and fans from across the country shared the story:
This really is an incredible and well-told story. https://t.co/Bx3bihjRCW— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) June 20, 2017
Thank you Ryan O'Callaghan for being who you are and reminding us what #Pride is all about. https://t.co/xcj61wTnWX— Rep. Joe Kennedy III (@RepJoeKennedy) June 21, 2017
Absolutely Cyd. What he went through personally...what an emotional journey. I was moved by this. Thanks for sharing https://t.co/c46Qj3khuG— Steve Wyche (@wyche89) June 21, 2017
I love my @Chiefs so much...Former Patriots and Chiefs tackle Ryan O’Callaghan comes out as gay - Outsports https://t.co/HUNh98rXnu— Melissa Etheridge (@metheridge) June 20, 2017
Inspiring story of a CA native's difficult, rewarding journey and those who have stood by him.— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) June 20, 2017
Thank you Ryan.https://t.co/wnNS2OJk6t
Inspirational @CydZeigler story on Ryan O'Callaghan & his courage highlighted by amazing support from @scottpioli51 https://t.co/kNUozJe2Za— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) June 21, 2017
Longtime Boston sports columnist Bob Ryan took the opportunity of his win on Around The Horn Wednesday to talk about his support of O’Callaghan and the tragedy of gay athletes feeling they cannot be their true selves. Host Tony Reali also weighed in with some thoughts:
So amazing to hear @GlobeBobRyan & @TonyReali give their support to Ryan O'Callaghan during today's @AroundtheHorn— Erik Hall (@HallErik) June 21, 2017
️ #LGBT @outsports pic.twitter.com/TzZegTUx5d
And yes, even Curt Schilling -- the embattled former MLB pitcher who took a beating for sharing some ugly images and thoughts about transgender people last year — offered his support:
Despite some fools with double-digit Twitter followers wondering what the big deal is, it was tough to find anyone who wasn’t on board with O’Callaghan’s story.
Scott Pioli, the former Chiefs GM and current Atlanta Falcons assistant GM who helped O’Callaghan five years ago in his time of need, did a couple media hits on Thursday, both of which were fantastic.
You can catch him on the radio with WEEI and also NFL Live on ESPN, which you can watch here:
Pioli speaking out has been huge. From the first moment I asked to speak with him for the article he has been fantastic, totally committed to advancing this story and making sure every gay person in the NFL knows they have a high-ranking team executive they can turn to if they need help. I can tell you as the author of O’Callaghan’s story, Pioli has been truly amazing and deserves every word of the accolades he has received.
All in all, the response to O’Callaghan coming out has been incredibly positive, particularly amongst media members covering the NFL and the people within the NFL who have reached out to the gay player.
It should give hope to other gay athletes struggling in the NFL and other pro sports. As Outsports has said for years, professional athletes are way ahead of where most people think they are in regards to accepting LGBT people. If high school and college football players in Iowa, Texas and Tennessee can be accepted, so can a gay athlete or coach in the NFL.
In 2012 NFL players were polled as to whether they think same-sex marriage should be legalized. At the time 62% said it should be, which was way ahead of the national average.
Yes folks, NFL players are AHEAD of the general population on LGBT equality. Believe it.
I hope any gay person in the NFL feels comfortable reaching out to O’Callaghan, Pioli or myself for help. We are all here to help you find your way in a world too often labeled “homophobic,” and each of us will do our best to get you any help you need in whatever manner works for you.
You can find Ryan O’Callaghan on Facebook. You can also email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find Scott Pioli on Twitter @ScottPioli51. Cyd Zeigler’s contact information is here.