LANHAM, Md. (CBSDC) — The majority of Washington Redskins would have no issue with having a gay teammate, though the locker room would not be completely void of controversy, according to a number of players on the current roster.
All players spoke under the condition of anonymity.
The National Football League said it plans to increase efforts to promote tolerance of sexual orientation inside locker rooms in wake of Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam’s announcement that he is gay. Sam is expected to become the first openly gay player in the league’s 94-year history this season.
One player said he was told by a teammate early last season that Sam was going to openly discuss his sexuality prior to entering the league.
Discussions of sexual orientation are not unheard of in NFL locker rooms and it is an accepted fact among players that there are already gay men in the league, according to a veteran.
“The facts dictate that,” he said.
One player said he previously played alongside a gay teammate in high school and that it was a non-issue.
“We all knew, but he was just one of the guys,” the player said. “From what I remember, nobody gave him any crap about it.”
The gay player’s father was a coach on the team.
There was at least one rumor circulating among players last season that a man currently on an NFL roster and among the “top at his position” is gay. Other players said they had not heard the rumor, but would not be surprised if it were true.
“It was one of those things where I thought, ‘Wow, this is a crazy story,’ ” a player said. “But that guy didn’t want to come out. Sam is the guy who is going to get all of the backlash. So, maybe another couple of players will come out.”
The same player believes Sam became a better player in college after coming out to his teammates prior to the start of his senior season. He was warmly received and there was little to no friction among Missouri players. Publicly, his teammates expressed no disapproval or concern.
Such a reception is likely in the NFL, although there will be a handful of players in any locker room who disapprove of same-sex relationships.
One player said he can think of a handful of current Redskins players that would have a difficult time with having a gay man in the locker room.
“I think some guys would kind of shy away from him a little bit… maybe three or four guys,” he said. “But for the most part he’d be accepted.”
According to one player, some in the locker room who are disapproving of a gay lifestyle will likely feel pressured to not publicly express their opposition. As such, they may choose to be dishonest when speaking to the media.
“The political correct things are almost a must among teammates,” a player said. “There might be a little bit of separation outside of the locker room. It’s not like college where you’re all in dorms together. Some guys are married, some have families.”
Multiple players say team leaders will play an crucial role in keeping peace should any issues present themselves behind closed doors.
“You may have a couple knuckleheads, but the leaders should step up and squash that,” he said. “Of course you’re going to have a little bit of a stir, we’re humans, but we need to be comfortable.”
Any razzing or teasing directed at a gay player wouldn’t necessarily come from someone opposing same-sex relationships. Despite the turbulent and highly publicized situation involving Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito, the NFL locker room remains a place where off-color and non-politically correct jokes are commonplace.
“You’re going to have one or two guys that are going to give him crap,” a player said. “We get crap for just wearing the wrong shoes. He’s going to get crap every once in a while.”
Just as time heals all wounds, winning would be the prescription for curing any locker room splintering that would arise from having a gay player on the roster.
“As long as they see him making plays, the rest of the stuff won’t matter off the field,” one player said.
Regardless of on-field performance, a gay player seems destined to have more support than opposition once in the league.
“As a Redskin I would welcome him with open arms,” a player said. “I think it’s going to be fine.”