Maybe the NFL locker room actually isn’t ready for an openly gay player.
The real problem may not be that some players will object to the sexual orientation of a teammate, but that some will bristle at what will perceived to be a grab for attention.
That’s the gist of a recent series tweets from Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons, as summarized and explained by Danny O’Neil of the Seattle Times. While the comments could be construed as homophobic on the surface, Clemons eventually gets to the crux of his concern: “I’m not against anyone but I think it’s a selfish act. They just trying to make themselves bigger than the team.”
The first player who comes out will create a major distraction for himself, his teammates, and his entire organization. With each passing season, as interest in the NFL continues to grow and as more and more media companies emerge to cover the sport, the distraction will be even bigger when a player does come out.
That’s one of the primary reasons no player has done it. Football players want to play football, and they generally don’t want to create a distraction for themselves or others on the team. Even if teammates have no issue with a player being honest about who he is, some teammates won’t understand why the player felt compelled to grab a megaphone and let the world know private, personal information that results in a microphone eventually being stuck in all their faces.
While it’s possible that the first player who comes out will be motivated by objectives other than making it easier for people to be who they are (e.g., extending his NFL career, creating a post-football career, or cashing in on endorsement opportunities), it will still require considerable courage, since the costs possibly will far outweigh the benefits.
Clemons’ comments highlight one potential cost that many may have previously overlooked.