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Dan Levy
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Dan Levy

The host of On the DL with new episodes every weekday.

No, Until Yes.

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I've worked in sports too long. I've been in too many locker rooms. It's hard for me to think that players would care if a teammate was openly gay. Yet it's hard for me to think about those same locker room scenarios and think that players wouldn't care either.

So I asked my wife. Her sister is a former athlete and is openly gay. Granted the stigma in women's sports is far less career threatening than that in men's sports. But the point of asking my wife was, if for nothing else, to get some perspective from a person who watches sports yet has never set foot in a locker room. In this particular case, she has twice the perspective.

When I posed the question of whether or not the NFL is ready for an openly gay player, she immediately said it is not. When I questioned why, she had no reason. "It's just what people think."

Why is that what people think? Personally I don't think it matters if the players are ready. And clearly the owners and GMs and player personnel people don't care if their players sleep with women, men or themselves as long as when they put on the uniform they run fast, jump high and win games. So who dictates if the NFL is ready for an openly gay player?

The fans.

Remember the poll during the election asking voters if they had a problem voting for a black man to be president? Few had any issues with it, but in an interesting twist, many of those people have friends who might take issue with it. So, as a voter, or in this case a football fan, most wouldn't admit they are racist/sexist/homophobic jerks. Just the guy in the seat next to 'em.

Our athletes are a reflection of ourselves. A beautiful, physically talented reflection of ourselves. So to many, rooting for a player who is gay is tantamount to being gay yourself. Have you looked around (especially at the guy in the seat next to you who clearly hates everyone). This country isn't exactly the most embraceable public, especially those who spend Sundays crushing beer cans against their foreheads.

My wife is right, then. The NFL isn't ready for an openly gay player. And you know what the only thing that can change that is? An openly gay player.

See, we don't have a face to look at, so it's easy for the collective (and insensitive) fan base to reject the idea that one of their heroes enjoys the company of other men. Odds are there are many gay players in the NFL. It just stands to reason based on statistics and percentages.

What if it was your star quarterback? What if it was the top draft pick who will sure up the offensive line for the next 10 years? What if it was the 53rd guy on the bench who busts his hump every time he gets a chance to step on the field?

Wouldn't that change things? Barack Obama, for all the research that was done, didn't win the election because he was black, no matter how many of your neighbors wouldn't vote for him because he was. He won because he was Barack Obama. He won because he was a man, who happened to be black, and that's a far different thing to rationalize for people.

So the NFL won't be ready for an openly gay player until it has one. And for the other players in the league who will follow, let's hope one of them has that kind of courage soon.

By Dan Levy  |  June 17, 2009; 8:53 AM ET  | Category:  Dan Levy , NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Sensible. I mean, believing that NFL players will never accept a gay person is really rather slanderous towards them. After all, Australian rugby players accepted Ian Whatshisface. Are our guys uniquely more bigoted? I'd like to think not or if they are, I'd like to think they'd be ashamed of themselves.

Posted by: AngloAm | June 17, 2009 4:48 PM

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