In practically every aspect that can be imagined, the NFL is a modern, progressive league. They are usually the first to embrace new technologies and advances in equipment. They were one of the first to try to expand to a global marketplace with their brand, and they have introduced new rules in the name of player safety that could be to the detriment of their bottom line with fans.
So why then, is the opinion of the general public that the NFL would be professional sports organization least likely to accept an openly gay player?
The biggest reason for this view is that the locker rooms are run by the players and coaches…not the league and it’s various arms. For that reason and that reason alone, it has to be a frightening prospect for any player to even think for a moment about coming out openly as a homosexual.
Let’s get one thing straight (no pun intended), there are gay players in the NFL. The law of averages nullifies any other possibility. It’s impossible to have an organization this large and varied, that takes players from so many different walks of life, to not have at least one gay player in their midst.
The next step is getting that first guy to just stand up and admit it.
Easier said than done.
But it’s a barrier that is going to have to be broken sooner or later, much like Jackie Robinson broke the racial barrier in MLB. The difference is, everyone could see Jackie Robinson was a black man, while the identity of a gay player in an NFL locker room can (and has) remain anonymous for the duration of his career and into retirement.
It’s not going to be easy, for the player or the organization–it will forever change that path of both. But when the day comes when that first player decides to come out publicly and tell the world that he is a homosexual, it will alter the NFL playing field forever.
And believe me when I tell you, that’s not a bad thing.
Once that day comes, and the bravery of one man shines forth to set aside his own personal career (and safety), it will pave the path for others to finally be able to play and live without the fear of being “caught’ living their own personal lifestyle choice while playing as a professional football player, the most macho of all macho sports.
The heterosexual players in the league will still be able to retain their machismo (in fact, they might even become more alpha male), and the NFL locker rooms will learn the same thing that most of society has known for a long time–that gay men and women aren’t out to make you join them, they just want to live their own lives without fear and prejudice.
Is the NFL ready now? That’s hard to say. But they–players, coaches, executives, et al–need to be ready, because the day is going to come whether anyone wants it to come or not. The question is, which team will have the honor of being the first to welcome an openly gay player into their huddle and call them a brother.