Before Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo appeared at a rally at the Supreme Court, he spoke to Erik Brady of USA Today regarding the question of whether a gay NFL player will come out of the closet.
Ayanbadejo believes that it will happen in another sport first.
“I think it will happen in baseball sooner than in football or basketball,” Ayanbadejo said. “The reason I say that is because I think there is less of a connection to religion in baseball. The religious roots are a lot deeper in basketball and football. With that being said, I think baseball players are more open minded.”
Ayanbadejo later acknowledged that he “could be wrong,” but he nevertheless believes baseball players generally are “open-minded and not so tied to religion as much as football and basketball.”
But he also believes the NFL is ready for an openly gay player, and that the league is “laying the foundation for a player to be comfortable and safe.” Ayanbadejo likewise thinks that last month’s “do you like girls?” controversy from Scouting Combine interviews has helped the situation by forcing the NFL to instruct teams to end potentially discriminatory practices.
Still, the biggest impediment to coming out may come from the external distractions. The player will have to be willing to bear that burden, and to subject his teammates and others in the organization to questions about the situation. Most players won’t want that, for themselves or for their teammates.
The media could help reduce that burden by not getting carried away by news of the first gay NFL player. The reality is that, when a football player comes out of the closet, every media organization will come out of the woodwork in search of sound bites and reactions and, ideally, controversy.