JJ Watt supported Carl Nassib when he came out publicly as gay. | Patrick Breen/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

When NFL player RK Russell — who came out as bi four years ago — took to Twitter last year asking his followers what active NFL players had publicly supported the LGBT community, he got a bunch of responses. Some wondered if there were any, others jumped in with names of players, media members, coaches and others.

Among others, it drew a response from retired NFL player and two-time Super Bowl champ Chris Long — who played on the Rams with Michael Sam — proclaiming his support for the LGBT community:

It left us wondering just how many current or recent NFL players, owners and head coaches have done something similar. Over the last few days we’ve worked with Russell to dig deeper into the question, and we’ve come up with a pretty good list of people across the NFL who are supporters.

Why is this even important?

Russell said he believes “allies” are incredibly valuable to any social-justice movement, and he’s looking forward to seeing the impact of more and more of them in the sports world in the coming months and years.

“The silent majority of sports legends have yet to speak out in favor of LGBTQ+ sports, and I’m sure it is not due to homophobia but a lack of knowledge and fear,” said Russell, who is also the author of his upcoming memoir, The Yards Between Us.

“Let’s encourage them with open arms of understanding and the freedom to grow, and celebrate those who have shown support, regardless of their level of commitment, to encourage more athletes to do the same whether to be LGBTQ+, closeted, or allies. We can encourage our athletes to do more but it only seems fair to acknowledge how far the world of male professional sports has come.”

Russell is one of 16 active or former NFL players to come out publicly as gay or bi. That number is more than the other four Big Five American men’s pro sports leagues combined. Despite that fact, Outsports readers perceive the NFL to be the most inhospitable to LGBT people.

Below we’ve listed current and recently former NFL players, team owners and head coaches who have — with their actions and/or words — demonstrated support for the LGBT community, gay athletes, fans and anyone else in between. Many other now-former players have expressed support; This list features only players still in the league, on a team, currently looking for a roster spot, or who left in the last year.

All of this is in addition to Roger Goodell — the NFL commissioner and the most powerful person in American sports — who has for 10 years talked publicly many times about his support for the LGBT community, including his gay brother.

NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith has also expressed support on behalf of the players union.

Plus in more general terms, shortly after coming out publicly, Carl Nassib praised his then-teammates on the Raiders as being supportive. Some of them have spoken publicly about their support.

Here are the people — who have been active in the league over the last two seasons — we know publicly support the LGBT community in some way:

Active or Recent NFL Players
(some players have switched teams or retired since expressing support)

Arizona Cardinals
DeAndre Hopkins, WR
JJ Watt, DE
Matt Prater, K
Trey McBride, TE

Atlanta Falcons
Casey Heyward, CB

Baltimore Ravens
Calais Campbell, DT
Marlon Humphrey, CB

Carolina Panthers
Johnny Hekker, P
Preston Williams, WR

Chicago Bears
Dante Pettis, WR

Cincinnati Bengals
John Karras, C

Dallas Cowboys
Anthony Barr, OL
Jonathan Hankins, DL
Matt Overton, LS

Denver Broncos
Jarrod Fleming, OT
Anthony Harris, S
Dalton Risner, OG
Russell Wilson, QB

Indianapolis Colts
Nick Foles, QB

Jacksonville Jaguars
Brandon McManus, K

Kansas City Chiefs
Joe Thuney, OG

Las Vegas Raiders
Davante Adams, WR
Clelin Ferrell, DE
Darren Waller, TE
Derek Carr, QB

Los Angeles Chargers
Chase Daniel, QB

Minnesota Vikings
Kirk Cousins, QB
Harrison Smith, S
Adam Thielen, WR

New England Patriots
Kendrick Bourne, WR
James Ferentz, C

New Orleans Saints
Jordan Howard, RB
Jarvis Landry, WR

New York Giants
Saquon Barkley, RB
Richie James, WR
Trenton Thompson, S
Leonard Williams, DT

New York Jets
A. Rodgers, QB
Solomon Thomas, DL

Philadelphia Eagles
Robert Quinn, DE

San Francisco 49ers
Maurice Hurst, DT
Kyle Juszczyk, FB
George Kittle, TE

Tennessee Titans
Robert Woods, WR

Free Agents
Zach Banner, OT
Odell Beckham Jr, WR
AJ Bouye, RB
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S
Cole Croston, OT
Tae Davis, LB
TY Hilton, WR
Janoris Jenkins, CB
Colin Kaepernick, QB
Kyle Long, OG
Cam Newton, QB
Russell Okung, OT
Darius Stills, DT
Malcolm Smith, LB
Johnny Stanton, FB
Kenny Stills, WR
LaAdrian Waddle, OT

There are also a number of NFL owners and head coaches who have publicly expressed support for gay athletes and the LGBT community.


Mike Bidwill, Arizona Cardinals
Arthur Blank, Atlanta Falcons
Mark Davis, Las Vegas Raiders
Jimmy Haslam, Cleveland Browns
Jim Irsay, Indianapolis Colts
Jerry Jones, Dallas Cowboys
Shad Khan, Jacksonville Jaguars
Robert Kraft, New England Patriots
Stan Kroenke, Los Angeles Rams
John Mara, New York Giants
Stephen Ross, Miami Dolphins
Steve Tisch, New York Giants
Zygi Wilf, Minnesota Vikings
Jed York, San Francisco 49ers

Head Coaches
(some coaches have switched teams, or are not currently coaching, since expressing support)

Todd Bowles, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Brian Daboll, New York Giants
John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens
Kliff Kingsbury, Arizona Cardinals
Mike McCarthy, Dallas Cowboys
Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs
Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers
Arthur Smith, Atlanta Falcons
Mike Vrabel, Tennessee Titans

Note that other players, coaches and owners shared generic messages about including anyone who can help their team, but their message didn’t quite ring to us as “support” for the LGBT community or gay teammates.

We are sure there are others out there. If there’s someone we missed, please add them in the comments below and we’ll update this rundown.

You can find RK Russell on Instagram and Twitter. His memoir — The Yards Between Us — comes out next year.