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The NFL's Closet Is Still Full Of Gay Players

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Michael Sam is the biggest story in football — and all of sports — right now. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images.
Michael Sam is the biggest story in football — and all of sports — right now. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images.

Michael Sam has come out as gay. This was a very brave thing to do and watching people rally behind him has been great. The amount of support he is receiving today on talk radio shows how far we have come in a very short time in regards to homosexuality in America. That’s not to imply we still don’t have a long way to go, but 10 years ago this would have been a much bigger story and there would have been less talk of his playing ability and much more about his “lifestyle choice.” The fact that the conversation today includes of talk of where and when he will be drafted and not if he will be drafted proves that acceptance is beginning to trump ignorance.

Now, what I really want to know is when will the other gay players in the NFL follow him out of the closet?

With most estimates putting the number of gay people in America between four and five percent, it’s safe to assume there are between 68-85 gay players on active NFL rosters. That would mean every NFL team has multiple players hiding their sexuality. So, while society in general has come a long way with acceptance of homosexuals, it’s safe to say the NFL is lagging well behind.

Not that this should come as a surprise. As the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin story proved, the NFL locker room is still a safe haven for homophobic language and 1950s he-man mentality. One of the last places that an ignorant meathead can feel right at home doing his best Archie Bunker impression. A place where refined, enlightened society has no place and where the people inside that place are seemingly fine with that being the case.

The 2012 NFL MVP, Adrian Peterson, had no problem spending last offseason spouting off on talk radio shows about his disapproval of gay marriage. That he didn’t think gay people should have the same rights as heterosexual people. The NFL didn’t weigh in at all. The backlash was almost non-existent. To say Peterson was speaking for a large percentage of current players would be fair.

Currently Michael Sam is being projected as a third or fourth-round pick. He was a first team all-American and by all accounts a high character player on and off the field. If he slips in this year’s draft, how far he slips will be a new measuring stick for the NFL.

And what I will find more interesting is just how long Michael Sam will be allowed to stand alone. How long until one of the other gay players in the NFL is willing to come out of the closet as well and stand beside Sam going forward? Because while you only need one brave person to take a stand, you often need many more to help them keep their balance. Here’s hoping the wave of positive public support Michael Sam is enjoying today will enable others to come out of the dark ages of the NFL locker room and into the light of modern-day American society.