Before any gay NFL player comes out of the closet, he needs to have some sense of what will happen when he does.
If he’s a member of the Texans, he has a strong supporter in linebacker Connor Barwin.
Barwin, who has an openly gay brother, tells Outsports.com that the process of a player coming out may not be as difficult as believed, although at first it could be a challenge.
“I think right now it would probably be hard for a guy to come out in our locker room just because of the awkwardness,” Barwin said. “But I think they would be surprised at how welcoming people would be. I think at the end of the day guys care about how you play football, because we’re all so competitive about winning that if there is a guy who comes out as gay in our locker room and he’s a good football player, people aren’t going to care about that. I think that’s the honest truth. I think guys care about what kind of person they are, what kind of teammate they are and how good they are at helping us win.”
Barwin suggested that, if the player issn’t a contributor or if teammates don’t like the player’s personality, it could be more problematic. “But I could be wrong,” Barwin said. “It’s amazing how many people know relatives or friends who are gay, so I think it might not be as hard as some people think.”
Barwin also has a theory for how the first player will come out, and that it won’t happen via a press conference or any other obvious declaration.
“The first guy that does come out in the NFL might confide in some of his friends and it might spread and be accepted throughout the locker room,” Barwin said. “And people would just get to know he’s gay and people will move on with football, the season and their life and realize it’s not a big deal at all. There’s nothing different about what they’re doing. There’s nobody having sex in the locker room, so there’s nothing really different.”
It could happen sooner than anyone realizes. Barwin, who said he has noticed a sharp decline in the use of gay slurs in and around football, believes adjustments to the mindset of the locker room constantly are being made.
“Things are changing rapidly, very rapidly,” Barwin said.
Last week, former NFL player Wade Davis encouraged any gay player to come out, regardless of his status on the roster. If/when more and more players agree with Barwin, someone eventually will come out.
And perhaps the comments from respected players like Barwin provide a key step in laying the foundation for a gay player to acknowledge his sexuality. As heterosexual players make it more and more clear that it’s not a big deal, gay players eventually will reach the same conclusion.