Yesterday I posted a letter drafted by former NFL punter Chris Kluwe in which he shares his belief that he was booted from the Minnesota Vikings last year because of his outspoken support for marriage equality. He wraps up with the unfortunate revelation that he’ll never punt in the NFL again. The piece got me wondering about how many young, aspiring, gay athletes the NFL is missing out on.
I know of at least one more. I reached out to Dorien Bryant, the Purdue wideout we profiled in the Winter 2013 issue of G Philly. He came this close to being drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers, and after that — despite getting offers from other teams — he seemed to let go of his dreams of playing in the pros. Being my closest NFL contact, I reached out to him for thoughts on Kluwe’s letter. Did he realize the NFL was that homophobic? Was that the reason he stopped pursuing his pro-sports goals? This is what he told me:
What do you think about Kluwe’s revelation?
It really doesn’t surprise me, at all. So many people in the world of “manly” athletics are terribly close-minded. … I like guys. That doesn’t mean I like every guy. I went through 16 years of playing football and being in locker rooms and not one time was I “into” or aroused by anyone. It was work. Football is fun, and these were my friends.
Do you feel like you dodged a bullet by not getting drafted into the NFL?
I definitely dodged a bullet. I’d be miserable and afraid, honestly. It’s really unfortunate for Kluwe. He’s jobless because of speaking on a topic he seems to feel very strongly about. In the NFL, players are fined 1 percent of their monthly salaries for vicious hits and problems with the law — actual harmful and illegal acts. He spoke up for human rights, and got fired. It just proves even more how far the NFL and professional sports has to go. … I always knew, in the back of my mind, that no matter how well I could catch a football, if they knew I was gay, my “evaluation” would no longer be about my talent.
Is homophobia in the NFL one of the reasons you stopped pursuing your chances of playing in the NFL?
Most definitely. I knew if I continued on the path I was heading down, I couldn’t live the life I knew I wanted for myself. The frustration I had building up from not feeling like I could be myself around teammates, friends and family really just began to weigh on me too heavily. Plus, the draft process alone is stressful and demeaning. The day I decided to put any NFL dreams I had in my past and come out was the first day I felt excited about my future.
Stay on top of Philly’s LGBT news via our snappy weekly newsletter. Sign up here.