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Can You Be Gay in the NFL?

“I’m gay.”

Those are two words that can change one’s life forever. Coming out for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people can be one of the most challenging things they’ll ever do. When you’re in the public sphere and work in a very traditional “sports” environment it’s easy to understand why you might keep quiet.

This is likely why there are no “out” players in the National Football League. Even being a straight ally can bring scrutiny.

Mike Freeman, NFL national lead writer for Bleacher Report sat down with Alicia Menendez to discuss the NFL’s issue with gay players after writing an article on the subject. He estimates that there are approximately 2,000 current athletes in the NFL. If 3.4% of people are gay, odds are there could be at least 68 gay or bisexual NFL players.

Last week Illinois became the 16th U.S. state to recognize same-sex marriage. This moves us further towards full LGBTQ acceptance, but we still have a long way to go before this is something athletes will embrace.

When one comes out, they deal with not knowing if they will be accepted by their family and their peers. Add intense public scrutiny to that equation and we get a culture where professional athletes don’t come out.

That’s why most pro-athletes wait to come out once they retire, like ex-NFL player, Wade Davis.

Here are 8 male, pro-athletes who have come out in recent years.

John Amaechi (NBA)

Amaechi became the first former NBA player to publicly come out, doing so in his memoir Man in the Middle.

Jason Collins (NBA)

Collins came out as gay in a column he wrote for Sports Illustrated on April 29, 2013.

Orlando Cruz (WBO)

In 2012, Cruz became the first active, pro-boxer to come out as gay. “I have and will always be a proud Puerto Rican,” he said in a statement. “I have always been and always be a proud gay man.”

Wade Davis (NFL)

Davis came out in 2012, speaking publicly about what it was like being a closeted gay man in the NFL. He now is an advocate for equality in professional sports and works closely with LGBT youth.

David Testo (MLS)

In 2011, Testo came out as gay. He said that he regretted not coming out publicly earlier. “I’m gay, I’m gay,” he said in a French CBC interview. “I did not choose [to be]. It’s just part of who I am.”

Esera Tuaolo (NFL)

In 2002 Tuaolo told the Associated Press he didn’t think the NFL was ready for an openly-gay player, after coming out in an HBO segment of Real Sports the same year.

Robbie Rogers (MLS)

Rogers came out as gay in May 2013 in a post on his personal website. According to Inside World Soccer, he is the first openly gay man to compete in Major League Soccer.

Darren Young (WWE)

Young came out as gay without any hesitation while being interviewed by a TMZ reporter at Los Angeles International airport. “I’m a WWE Superstar and I’m gay ands I’m happy,” he said. “I’m living the dream.”

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