Recently, former Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders was asked about having gay teammate. The debate has been thrown back into the forefront of the NFL due to comments from San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver and the outing of a former 49ers player.
Sanders comments weren’t negative towards gay athletes, but certainly didn’t help the possibility of players coming out while active in the league. TMZ asked Sanders if gay players would be a problem for him in the locker room. The Hall of Famer responded by saying that gay players would not be a problem, but it is hard knowing because, “there haven’t been many gay players.”
Sanders added that players shouldn’t be afraid to come out while active in the NFL but added that, “in a locker room you get teased for anything.” Sanders added, “If somebody comes out, they’re gonna get teased but they need to have thick skin and go on about their life.”
While Sanders comments about teasing may be true, they should have been left out. Gay athletes aren’t going to come out when they are not welcomed by players or told they will get made fun of. Perhaps this is the reason why former 49ers offensive tackle Kwame Harris‘ sexual orientation was kept out of the spotlight until a police report outed him.
Sanders is a well respected player as a Hall of Famer. During his 10 years in the league, he became the third leading rusher in history. Sanders could be a better role model here and use his words better to help the league and its openness grow.