Instead of presenting a long list of reasons the Eagles should draft Michael Sam, the Mizzou offensive lineman who came out of the closet on Sunday and stands to be the first openly gay player in the NFL, let me present two words:
Since this year’s Super Bowl will be played, domeless, in New Jersey, there’s speculation that cold-weather championships could be a regular part of the NFL’s future. Commissioner Roger Goodell doesn’t sound too (ahem) hot on that idea:
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.
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On Deadspin today, Chris Kluwe, the NFL punter who was fired from the Minnesota Vikings last year, shares a fascinating story in which he finally admits that he was probably let go for his outspoken support of marriage equality.
The story begins, he writes, when Minnesotans for Marriage Equality approached him about joining their campaign to defeat a proposed amendment that would define marriage as a union between one man and one woman in Minnesota. After clearing it with his team, he agreed to get on board as a spokesman. He made several radio appearances, attended a few dinners and penned a letter blasting Maryland delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr. for stifling the free speech of marriage-equality advocate Brendon Ayanbadejo. That’s when things started to get juicy:
Less than a year after he made waves by urging Penn students to boycott the university’s football team and the “violent, stupid game” itself, author Malcolm Gladwell is returning to campus for a talk later this afternoon. It’s open to university students, faculty, and staff only.
It’s two months before Gaybowl XIII, when the seven-on-seven National Gay Flag Football League champion will be crowned in Phoenix, and the Philadelphia Revolution is bereft of its star. In the middle of an overgrown Little League field in East Passyunk, where a mucky dune marks the 50-yard line, a bespectacled, double-knee-brace-wearing team captain drills the squad on route-running. Then, 30 minutes into the two-hour practice, he arrives: arms muscled, pecs protruding from a pink-sleeved t-shirt. He moseys toward the bleachers wearing a camo-green hat and Versace Eros cologne. He has just left Voyeur three hours ago. “I know nothing right now,” he mumbles, pulling on his cleats, grabbing his receiver’s gloves, and jumping in line for some 10-yard hitch routes.