Brendan Ayanbadejo is the NFL's most outspoken LGBT advocate. PHOTO: AP
Four NFL players could come out as gay on the same day, according to the NFL's most outspoken gay rights advocate, Brendan Ayanbadejo. In a long interview with the Baltimore Sun, Ayanbadejo said he was in talks with four players who are considering coming out, and that they might share the resulting burden and backlash by coming out together.
"I think it will happen sooner than you think," Ayanbadejo said. "We're in talks with a handful of players who are considering it. There are up to four players being talked to right now and they're trying to be organized so they can come out on the same day together. It would make a major splash and take the pressure off one guy. It would be a monumental day if a handful or a few guys come out."
No active player of any major sport has come out as gay during his playing career. There have been a handful of athletes to come out after their careers were over, but the news ripples those announcements made would pale in comparison to the giant splash a current athlete, let alone four, would make.
Statistically, it's quite likely that there are more than four gay NFL players (and of course, same goes for baseball, basketball, hockey, etc.). The first big coming out would likely precipitate another wave, as players would be emboldened by the first ones, and wouldn't receive the same level of media converage. Whoever goes first has to be ready for a lot of interviews and a lot of hate. That's why Ayanbadejo wants multiple players to come out together:
"Of course, there would be backlash. If they could share the backlash, it would be more positive. It's cool. It's exciting. We're in talks with a few guys who are considering it. The NFL and organizations are already being proactive and open if a player does it and if something negative happens. We'll see what happens."
What we are witnessing now, with the cascade of politicians coming out for equality amidst wide public support, is a cultural shift in real time. National attitudes around homosexuality have shifted radically in the last ten years. Now, even opponents are seeking a middle ground, like being gay is not a sin but gay sex is, or marriage should still be hetero, but other legal partnerships could be same-sex. Eventually these distinctions will also be rendered meaningless. It's nearly inconceivable that the Democrats would nominate an anti-equality presidential candidate in 2016, and whoever the Republicans nominate will have a high-wire act to pull off.
Frankly, it's thrilling to watch.