Perception of NFL players as homophobic may be outdated

Getty Images

When it comes to matters of gender and homosexuality, it’s widely believed that NFL locker rooms have remain trapped in a 1960s time warp.  As a result, no gay player ever has come out of the closet while still playing football.

A new item from seems to suggest that the reality has dramatically veered from the longstanding perception.

Multiple rookies and former players, including Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, Browns running back Trent Richardson, and Colts tight end Coby Fleener, tell Cyd Zeigler, Jr. that they would have no issues with a gay teammate.    Former players like Eddie George, Jevon Kearse, and Jesse Palmer also explain that they would have treated gay players no differently than straight ones.

“I just don’t care about that,” George said.  “If that’s what you do, that’s what you do.  I don’t hate you because of it or dislike you because of it.  That’s not my personal preference, but I respect your decision.  I’m not going to like you less or not be your friend because of that.”

Zeigler contends, perhaps accurately, that the “vast majority” of sports figures aren’t homophobic, but that they assume everyone else is.  And even if everyone in a locker room has no problem with a gay teammate, the far bigger hazard could come when an openly gay player jogs out of the tunnel as a member of the visiting team, experiencing insults and slurs and even threats from fans who will seize upon any factor that may get under an opposing player’s skin.

While the day may never come when a player comes out during his career, Zeigler explains that a former player will talk next month for the first time about being gay.  He’ll be the first former player to do so since former NFL defensive lineman Esera Tuaolo (pictured).

68 responses to “Perception of NFL players as homophobic may be outdated

  1. Awesome. Faith in humanity restored a bit. We’re all just people at the end of the day, folks. Your sexual orientation has no bearing on who you are as a human being. It’s upsetting that people don’t realize it.

  2. NFL players are people too. Most of them are enlightened, a few probably live in the dark ages. Glad to hear high profile players standing up to end modern day segregation.

  3. Awesome, I really hope it puts away any sort of perception that being gay or even pro-gay is in anyway non-masculine or anything, as a guy like Esera Tuaolo would take care of that.

  4. Why is the media waiting for and NFL player to NBA player to come out, when they won’t accurately cover the percentage of gay women in the WNBA or on the PGA tour? Less sensational I suspect……..

  5. “rickrock6661982 says:
    May 23, 2012 10:12 PM
    U Mad, Republicans and/or people from the South?”

    Do you think the Tampa Bay area is in the south from your ignorant comment? If so then you would know that this is the east coast hot spot.

  6. A player will come out during his playing time sooner rather than later. All it’ll take is one individual with a ton of courage, and then after that more would follow suit. I bet in a decade or two openly gay players dot NFL rosters.

  7. You forget, Mike…………..most of these men don’t actually graduate from their institutions of higher “Indoctrination”. They will never accept a lifestyle that is a biological failure any more than the general public will.

    Keep trying.

  8. rickrock6661982 says:
    May 23, 2012 10:12 PM
    U Mad, Republicans and/or people from the South?
    What a tool, and I’m not talking about the band TOOL, they’re awesome.

    You’re just a tool.

  9. @rickrock

    Please don’t assume everyone from the south and anyone that’s a republican hates gay people.
    The only people who do are actually misguided religious people who use religion to justify prejudicial hatred.

  10. So I’ll conclude that time, more than anything, lets people become more accepting and understanding of differences.

    All this time I thought you could just legislate this stuff forcing it down peoples throats. Weird.

  11. Eddie George still has a long way to go if he thinks being gay is a “decision.” That’s like saying someone decided to have blue eyes.

  12. People on both sides of our political ideologies have been evolving toward acceptance on this issue very rapidly.

    The holdouts are the religious zealots. Their holy books teach compassion and love toward humanity, but their preachers, rabbis, and clerics preach hatred toward those who are different.

    I suspect NFL locker rooms would mirror society. The uber religious would have problems with it but the rest (the majority) won’t.

  13. “If that’s what you do, that’s what you do. I won’t hate you because of it.”

    -Ringing endorsement from Eddie George. (The NFL has a long way to go)

  14. If you can’t stand the thought of a football player being gay, you have far worse insecurity issues than said player that is afraid to come out due to the fact that his personal safety would be compromised. Time to grow up and accept that not everyone needs to think the way you do. Glad to hear some young guns stepping up against the close-minded bigotry. And this will probably make some of your heads explode, but I’m a straight republican. *gasp*

  15. Blame poorly educated people and religion, not sports figures.

    It just so happens that many sports figures are poorly educated, despite free education, and religious.

  16. Of course anything that bashes Republicans and fuels the perception that Republicans are anti-gay gets right past the censors. Of course, if I wrote that RG3 is a Republican and he is black, and since 80% of blacks vote against gay marriage, it follows that he is probably lying through his teeth, I’d never see the light of day here.

  17. Interestingly enough, there was a persistent rumor in Nashville throughout George’s Titans career that he was bisexual. People supposedly saw him and Yancey Thigpen patron local gay social venues together (but not insinuating that he and Thigpen had a thing). Just a long-standing rumor. Regardless, it’s good to see that players are learning the politically correct thing to say. That’s a first step.

  18. So many people commenting are worrying about how far we have to go, who should be rejoicing about how far we’ve come

  19. thermalito says:
    May 23, 2012 10:46 PM
    What about the perception that NFL players are religious wackos? Sadly that perception is true.


    I love watching football but I have to tell you that if 300+ pound dudes are running at me top speed… I would be praying a lot.

  20. I don’t believe it’s outdated. If you were to take an anonymous poll of every player in the league, I guarantee 70-75% would have a problem with a gay teammate, and that might be a little low.

    Fact is, athletes know coming out against gay marriage or the like is PR suicide. You want to be painted as evil on ESPN and universally panned by national writers? Then fine, come out as opposed to having a gay teammate.

    By the same token, nowadays famous people or athletes who come out in favor of it are lauded in the media.

    So yeah, I don’t buy that the opinions have changed drastically, people are just more afraid of being honest about it.

  21. Tmi420,

    ironically, what you call a “biological failure” is actually a great success given that this planet has a worsening overpopulation problem.

  22. Eddie George still has a long way to go if he thinks being gay is a “decision.”

    Everytime you have sex with someone it’s a decision.

  23. I’m a Southerner. And I’m generally conservative. And I don’t hate gay people.

    However, I do hate rickrock6661982. He strikes me as profoundly stupid.

  24. Biological failure?!?

    So if a heterosexual couple is unable to conceive they should divorce and call it quits as they too have biologically failed?

    I have gay friends that are far better spouses and far better parents than most straight couples.

    You don’t have to like it, but they damn well deserve some respect.

  25. How awesome would it be if Tebow came out? With his strong faith, maybe it would shut up some of these religious hypocrites. Prejudice is evil. People need to worry ab what makes themselves happy and not other people. Mind ur own effin business in other words

  26. @rickrock, remember you live in America so you can have any opinion you want. Don’t let the minority bully you in to their beliefs.

    By the way, not surprised that the gay dude was a charger.

  27. “U Mad, Republicans and/or people from the South?”

    Last time I checked every state that legalized gay marriage has overturned it. Every. Single. One.

    Oh and what have liberals done as far as gay marriage? Hmm… Let’s see Democrat controlled house, senate, and white house for 3 years yet nothing done. Until election season comes around and a half-assed response to the issue is made when you yourself know nothing will change.

    Typical liberal holier-than-though attitudes. Talk like you are the accepting, more socially tolerant group but your entire political strategy uses false claims backed by hypocrisy.

    This is all coming from a gay marriage supporting conservative.

  28. I’ll keep this comment short, as I have a lot to say on this matter…

    It’s finally happening. The beginning of the end of the worst stereotype in this country is finally here. Not all of us gay men live the “flamboyant” life, and some of us even like to participate in professional sports. What a day it will be when a man has the courage to stand up and let it be known who he truly is. The acceptance is there; all that is needed now is the bravery. I cannot wait until that day comes. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who they go home to. It matters how many receptions or sacks he’s recorded, or how many home runs he’s hit, or how well he shoots at the free throw line.

  29. Of course there will be an openly gay player one day. And it will create a big news story and be hailed as a great moment and then in a couple of years nobody will care. It happened in England a few years back with the first openly gay rugby player. Can’t even remember the guy’s name now.

  30. I know straight guys that are cool and gay guys that are cool. I also have met straight and gay guys that are jackasses and douche bags. Would rather hate them for that as opposed to their sexual orientation.

  31. dontouchmyjunk

    religious zealots don’t preach hatred toward those who are different. They hate the act of sin, not the sinner. We love the person and only want what will bring the best things to them. Don’t blame the ones that are still living on principals that this Country was founded on. We are the ones trying to keep Gods Blessing with us. As we all know though there are many that have not given the message of love and that is sad. That does not change the fact that we have gone very far away from what we were called to be, and if you look around it has taken us a long way away from the goodness of Gods grace. It will get worse too, because the deception is so deep. It really is sad that the truth has been so misguided. Now what the Bible said would happen is happening now. Good will be called bad, and bad will be called good. If only people could see how true it really is.

  32. When the first openly gay Australian Rugby player, Ian Roberts, outed himself it was the media that had the biggest problem. Players got over it fairly quickly. That was about 15 years ago. I hope an athlete comes out soon so we can all recognise that gay people are just ordinary people and start to move past our bigotry.

  33. sportsmeccabi says: May 23, 2012 10:42 PM


    Please don’t assume everyone from the south and anyone that’s a republican hates gay people.
    The only people who do are actually misguided religious people who use religion to justify prejudicial hatred.

    I really hope this is a stab at irony by using an obvious prejudicial statement to attack prejudice but sadly the irony probably went over your head.

  34. good point about the fans. don’t forget the media too. coming out as a player is probably one of those things that’s more trouble than it’s worth, even if your teammates wouldn’t have a problem with. perhaps there have already been players that have came out privately to some teammates but everyone agreed to keep it quiet.

  35. I think discretion is the better form of valor. There are gay players in the NFL……there has to be. Can you imagine the harassment and vitriol they would endure in this violent sport if they declared themselves gay? The condemnation and harassment would become covert to avoid punishment….much the same as is done in the military. But you can bet your butt life would become really difficult for gays in the predominately macho man NFL

  36. blackgallagher says:
    May 24, 2012 12:39 AM
    “U Mad, Republicans and/or people from the South?”

    Last time I checked every state that legalized gay marriage has overturned it. Every. Single. One.

    It’s a shame you’ve only met California and Maine.

    Please allow me to introduce you to: Connecticut,, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Maryland (pending) and Washington (pending). And also D.C. And as of last week, kinda sorta Rhode Island.

  37. lostorosdchicago23 says:
    May 24, 2012 5:27 AM
    you dont choose to be gay? you can hate all you want but i was not born knowing to like females. it was a decision of my own in my early teens.

    You might be gay. I dont know a single straight man who CHOOSE to be with women over men. Men were never an option to me or any other straight man on the planet.

  38. lolb23 says:
    May 24, 2012 12:15 AM
    Eddie George still has a long way to go if he thinks being gay is a “decision.”

    Everytime you have sex with someone it’s a decision.

    Which is a pointless piece of information to point out. Being gay is not the act, it is the preference. And contrary to what lostorosdchicago23 says, you don’t choose who you are attracted to.

    Try a little experiment: If you’re hetero, make the decision that you’re going to prefer men. Go ahead, you can always make the decision to prefer women again, right?

    Can’t do it? Well, don’t let that get in your way of saying that it *can* be done, even though you can’t do it.

  39. Then how do you explain bi-sexuals? If gays and straights were really “born this way” bi-sexuality would not exist. But because it does, it further proves everyone you sleep with is the result of a conscious decision.

  40. “If that’s what you do, that’s what you do. I won’t hate you because of it.”

    -Ringing endorsement from Eddie George. (The NFL has a long way to go)


    So actively stating you’d be tolerant and disinterested isn’t enough? You actually have to ENDORSE what other people do? This is why there is resistance to change at all, because even if you are properly disinterested in a matter, that’s not enough. You have to show outward support, or you’re still a bigot.

    I don’t care what other people do in the bedroom, as long as it’s consenting and the participants have a reasonable ability to judge what they are doing and the consequences (a mentally incompetent person may consent but not understand). Isn’t that enough? It’s like supporting individualism isn’t enough, to respect a person based on the content of their character, but I have to follow what Jesse Jackson says I have to do in proper “support” and endorsement ringing.

  41. I thought the choice comment was funny just like a lot of people here.

    All i can say is that in identical twin studies (kids same dna but split up at birth so they have same nature, different nurture if you will), when one one twin was gay in their adult life, the other twin was shown to be also gay about 50% of the time. So there is obviously a nature component, but there are some environmental factors at play as well.

    Unfortunately fans would probably yell things at openly gay players, but can it get much worse than the current treatment like hand gestures and expletives that fly today at opposing players?

  42. @txxxchief – uhhhhhhh. not only do gays NOT have extra legal rights, but for those of us living in states where gay marriage is still illegal (such as Texas), were second class citizens. We have one less right than the heterosexuals, therefore in the eyes of the government we are below them. Kinda messed up, don’t you think?

  43. Most people are straight, but some people are gay.
    Most people are right-handed, but some people are left-handed.

    We know from science that neither of these is a choice.

    Yes, the Bible is anti-gay, but what else does the Bible say?

    You can beat your slave with a stick as long as you don’t kill her (Exodus 21:20-22).

    You can make money selling your daughter off as a permanent slave (Exodus 21:7–I wonder how she would feel about that?).

    You’re not allowed to wear a shirt made from two different fabrics (Deuteronomy 22:11–Is your shirt 50% polyester? Sinner!!).

    But you’re not allowed to eat bacon. NO BACON FOR YOU (Leviticus 11:7).

    It’s funny how people who claim to believe the Bible and “hate the sin love the sinner” cling to the anti-gay verses to support their ignorance about the FACT that some people are gay and there’s nothing wrong with that.

    But when it comes to supporting or practicing human slavery, eating bacon, or wearing a shirt made of two different fabrics, they’re perfectly okay ignoring or explaining away the “Word of God”.

    Someday, and it may take a generation or more, the majority of people who truly claim to “believe the Bible” will look at anti-gay bigotry in the Bible the same way they look at slavery and dietary restrictions in the Bible. They’ll see it is outdated or no longer applicable. The rest of society will have moved on long before then.

  44. Played college fb w/ a gay kid. He wasn’t officially “out” but it was more or less known. No big deal.

  45. I really don’t get the point of this. If you publicly ask most racists whether or not they’re racist, they’ll say no. Same goes for this topic. If this was an anonymous survey, it’d have a little more weight…but then people can always seem more noble in the hypothetical than in real practice…

  46. lolb23 says:
    May 24, 2012 12:15 AM
    Eddie George still has a long way to go if he thinks being gay is a “decision.”

    Everytime you have sex with someone it’s a decision.


    Oh, really lolb23? So being gay is just about having sex? What about gay marriage? That’s just about sex?

    Hmmm, straight marriage – is that all about sex? HA – NO!

    I’m attracted to women – that isn’t a decision, it’s just how it is. That’s no different than a man being attracted to another man – it’s just the way it is!

    This isn’t like ordering off the McDonald’s dollar menu, it’s human nature.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.