Mission Impossible

This Is How The Plan For The NFL’s First Openly Gay Player Fell Apart


Earlier this year, we came closer than we even realized to having an openly gay active NFL player.

Obviously, that never happened.  This is why.

Bleacher Report has a fascinating behind the scenes look at how loose lips, fear, alleged greed and one major coming out in another sport may have killed the possibility of having an openly gay professional football player this year. Dozens of players, coaches and agents were interviewed for the story, all of which operated under strict anonymity for fear of bringing scrutiny onto themselves or their teams.

It was early spring when the rumors started to circulate about the possibility of an NFL player coming out, and the rumors hit the mainstream when former Baltimore Raven and gay rights advocate Brendon Ayanbadejo started speculating in interviews that one or more could possibly be on their way to coming out. Once that cat was out of the bag, the rumors seemed to heat up and intensify, and even though Ayanbadejo backed off of the initial statement about multiple players he still held firm that at least one player was on his way out. Turns out, his timing may have sucked.

Just a few months before, an unidentified gay player not only came out to a group of friends and advisers, but sent his reps in search of a team that would sign him and be completely cool with him coming out. They found the team and everything was a go, but two things happened. One was that word of the impending signing started to leak, leading to increased speculation and the reporting of rumors more or less confirmed by the likes of Ayanbadejo and others. The second was that Jason Collins came out to great fanfare and one of the most intense media blitzes in recent history.

Though there was little negative public reaction to the coming out of Collins, the fact remains that he did so as a free agent and remains unsigned. The gay NFL player was expected to receive an offer in mid-May so that there could be while for the publicity to die down before training camp started, but that offer never came. Some say it was because said player wanted too much money. The player himself thinks it was because the team got cold feet due to all of the Jason Collins attention. The bottom line is that it never happened, said player is still in the closet (and still a free agent), and the NFL has yet to have their first openly gay player.

There is much, much more to all of this, and the Bleacher Report piece is a great read. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the macho world of professional sports in which some are dedicated to doing the right thing, but may be trying to do so within an organization that is “like changing the course of a cruise ship.”

Hopefully one day a player will have the guts and the talent to put the NFL on the right track.

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