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Gay NFL player Esera Tuaolo opens up about head trauma in new podcast

Tuaolo hosts a candid conversation about head trauma with Brett Favre on his new podcast, “Mr. Aloha.”

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Out former NFL player Esera Tuaolo is candid about his concussion history on new podcast with Brett Favre.
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Sometimes, Esera Tuaolo will be writing an important email to secure funding for his anti-bullying non-profit, and he realizes it sounds wholly unprofessional. While up on stage, he’ll occasionally forget the words of a song, and hope nobody in the audience notices. The ex-NFL lineman is affable and enterprising, a poster child for a successful post-playing career. But beneath his jovial exterior, there are worries and fears.

Tuaolo says he’s lost two friends to head trauma over the last four months. They were healthy, but in his words, “one day they’re here, and one day they’re not.” It’s been bothering him, and on the latest episode of his new podcast, “Mr. Ahola,” Tuaolo opens up about his sorrow.

And Brett Favre was on the opposite computer screen.

Tauolo received some criticism for welcoming Favre on his podcast, just two weeks after the Hall of Fame quarterback had golfed with President Donald Trump. The episode prompted Tauolo to reach out to Favre, with whom he’s been friends for years. They spent years facing off against each other in the NFC North, with Tuaolo looking to bring Favre down.

But this time, Tauolo says he thought Favre needed to be lifted up. “I’m an executive director for Hate is Wrong. So hate in any form is wrong,” Tauolo told Outsports. “For me, reading that from all of his fans and people. There’s a truth to every story.”

Favre says he used his face time with Trump to pitch the benefits of a new drug that could potentially combat concussions. Favre is an investor in a pharmaceutical company developing a treatment that supposedly reduces brain swelling shortly after impact. Favre has been candid about his history with brain injuries, saying he thinks he might have suffered “thousands” of concussions in his playing day

The company is currently ensnared in a fraud scandal in Favre’s native Mississippi.

“(Trump) invited me, and I took the opportunity to present my case,” Favre said about his controversial golf outing.

When Tuaolo and Favre speak privately, they often talk about head trauma, and their shared fears. So this time, they decided to record it.

“Sometimes, I have to check an email multiple times, just to make sure it makes sense,” Tuaolo told Outsports. “When I’m writing an email or text, I think of the word, but I’m not typing it. So I go back and read my text or email and I’m like, ‘What the hell?’ I’ll read it again, and again, I missed the word. It’s big things like that.”

It is difficult for Tuaolo to speak about his anxieties. He says it helped to do it with a good friend.

“I’ve never talked about the whole concussion thing with anybody before,” Tuaolo said. “Obviously, you don’t want people to think you’re weak in some way. It’s human nature, People don’t want you to think that about themselves. But you know what? If it’s going to help somebody, well, more power to them.”

Since coming out in 2002, Tuaolo has served as an LGBTQ advocate, championing inclusion in sports. He asked Favre about the prospect of an active gay NFL player coming out. Favre thinks somebody will come out “sooner rather than later.”

“Times are changing,” Favre said. “That person would have to have thick skin. There are a lot of haters.”

Indeed. As the executive director of Hate Is Wrong, Tuaolo is committed to stamping out exclusion. He says it helps to have an NFL legend like Favre express his support for LGBTQ athletes. One day, Tuaolo says he hopes it isn’t necessary for a football player to come out at all.

“You don’t want to be define,” Tuaolo said. “I used to tell people I’m a gay Christian. Then I thought about it, and was like, ‘Why am I telling people that I’m gay, and I’m a Christian?’ I believe in God, and Jesus Christ as my lord and savior. So why am I telling people I’m a gay Christian?

“People think it has to be one way, or one thing. Just let it be. If an out college player comes out and he comes up through the ranks, amazing. If somebody comes out in the NFL, amazing. Why does it have to be one thing? It can be anything.”