Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

Perception of NFL players as homophobic may be outdated

Esera Tuaolo

3 Sep 1995: Defensive lineman Esera Tuaolo of the Minnesota Vikings looks on during a game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field in Chiago, Illinois. The Bears won the game, 31-14. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel /Allsport

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).