It could be the start of an important trend, and something the NFL should have been preparing for. Former San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle Kwame Harris confirmed that he is gay in an exclusive interview with CNN and regrets not coming out while he was still playing.
“I want people, whether gay athletes, athletes still in the closet, or youths who are not sure what their sexuality is to know those are common feelings,” Harris said. “Don’t feel alone in having them.”
Harris gave words of support for other players who are having issues talking about their sexuality, or are having questions about their own feelings and who are possibly considering some extreme measures.
“You want to escape the despair and turmoil and your mind goes to dark places,” Harris said. “I’m happy today, and I’m glad they were just ideas and I didn’t act on any of them.”
“The cost was great (to) not speak candidly (and be) open about myself in complete manner,” he continued. “If I could have done it differently, I would have hoped I found the strength (to come out).”
Just prior to the Super Bowl, Harris was reported to have been in an altercation with a “former boyfriend”. Perhaps the reaction of current 49ers cornerback Chris Culliverto Harris being basically outed is a big reason why some of these fears exist today.
“I don’t do the gay guys man,” Culliver said. “I don’t do that. No, we don’t got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do. Can’t be with that sweet stuff. Nah…can’t be…in the locker room man. Nah.”
Culliver has since apologized for his comments, but that doesn’t mean the feeling doesn’t still permeate in NFL locker rooms.
Having Harris publicly admit to his sexuality is a giant step, even bigger than his being accidentally outed by a public news story, and it could mean that the dominoes are about to start tumbling one by one for members of the gay community within the NFL.
There are a lot of eyes on the LGBT community right now, and having an athlete–particularly a former NFL player–like Harris to come out as a proud member of that community can do them nothing but good.
Brush up on your sensitivity training NFL scouts and executives, because the future was just given a gentle nudge by a guy who knows a lot about using leverage.