There’s been a lot of chatter this week about a new article series in the Boston Globe, and accompanying podcast at Wondery, about the life of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez. We’ve been reviewing the entire series and considering it before commenting on it here on Outsports, but there is one interview in the first episode of the podcast series that jumped out at me.
Brandon Lloyd, a receiver with the Patriots in 2012, said in the podcast series that his locker that season was between those of Hernandez and tight end Rob Gronkowski. Lloyd said in the podcast fellow receiver Wes Welker “warned” him about Hernandez when Lloyd got to the team.
“‘He’s going to have his genitalia out in front of you while you’re sitting on your stool,’” Lloyd said Welker warned him. “‘He’s going to have his towel and try to dry off in front of you while you’re sitting at your locker. He’s going to talk about gay sex. Just do your best to ignore it, even walk away.’”
To be sure, “gayness” was a part of the Patriots locker room, according to Lloyd.
“We played gay all the time. We played grab-ass, flippin’ towels, all the cheesy stuff that happens in sports movies where they lampoon an NFL or sports locker room. It happens.”
Given Lloyd played for six different NFL teams over the course of 11 seasons, I imagine it’s safe to say Foxborough wasn’t the only place he saw this.
Yet Lloyd said Hernandez’s behavior took the playful homoeroticism to a place that made some guys feel uncomfortable.
“But the things he was talking about was more-so, it was more graphic than us slapping each other on the ass and laughing and giggling like normally happens in a male locker room.”
Lloyd’s comments are enlightening for a couple of reasons. We will never know if Hernandez was gay, bi, queer or any other letter of our community. The man’s dead and only he can tell us. Yet it’s clear the guys in the Patriots locker room felt he wasn’t just another straight guy. And with him in the locker room they continued to play “grab ass,” slap each other’s bare asses and act, as Lloyd called it, “gay.”
Gronkowski himself has said he’d be cool with a gay teammate. Other current and former Patriots have shared the same attitude about a gay athlete in the locker room.
As we’ve said for years, having a gay, bi or queer teammate in the locker room just is not a big deal to most guys today, or even, in this case, at least six years ago.
Yet the other piece of the puzzle — Welker’s warning, Lloyd’s seeming unease with Hernandez’s “gay talk” — also points to a dynamic that it’s all fun and games between the guys as long as it doesn’t go TOO far. Talk about actual gay sex might make all the “grab ass” just a little too gay for some guys.
I can pretty much understand where they’re coming from. Talk about sex between men and women certainly makes just about anything way too straight for me.