At a time when many in the media and multiple straight players seem to be almost rooting for a gay NFL player to come out of the closet, former Steelers receiver and NBC analyst Hines Ward believes that the time may not be right for it to happen.
“I don’t think football is ready, there’s too many guys in the locker room and, you know, guys play around too much,” Ward told Erik Kuselias earlier today on NBC Sports Radio.
Ward remains optimistic that a player will decide otherwise. “[H]opefully one guy comes out of the closet and [will] be comfortable with himself,” Ward said. “I don’t have anything against a gay football player or a gay person period so if he does, he has support from me. I want people to live their lives for who they are and don’t have to hide behind closed doors to do that.”
He’s right, but that will be hard to do if football truly isn’t ready. Recent comments from Ward’s former teammate, Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace, suggest that football isn’t ready.
The crown jewel of the 2013 free-agency class tweeted his way into trouble on the same day the NFL unveiled a new set of guidelines regarding sexual orientation, and on the same day NBA player Jason Collins disclosed he is gay. Wallace’s comments once again demonstrate the disconnect between the politically-correct responses that typically emerge when a player is responding to a direct question from someone other than a comedian and the unfiltered nonsense that periodically flows from the fingertips in 140-character fragments.
Regardless of the precise reasons — player intolerance, fan abuse, fear of being cut, the avoidance of a media distraction for the player and his team, or some combination of those — the decision of every gay NFL player both now and in the past to remain closeted during their playing careers tends to prove that Hines is correct.
Otherwise, a gay player would have come out by now.