Since 1920, the start of the National Football League (NFL), there has never been a player that has been openly gay during his career. Still surprising is that only three players have come out after their careers had ended. These players would be Esera Tuaolo, David Kopay, and Roy Simmons. It is just startling that a sport with so many of thousands of players to ever play, not one has come out as gay while playing. This is a major issue today because as gay people begin to receive more acceptance in society, there has been no progress in the locker room of the NFL. One example is that before the Super Bowl this year Chris Culliver of the San Francisco 49ers said that gay players were not welcome on his team. This caused a reactive solidarity among many individuals and really got the ball rolling for the discussion of gay players playing in the NFL.
The first thing to address is what makes football different from other sports. This is that over fifty large men are changing and getting pumped before the game in the locker room. Having this in mind, a possible reason that people are homophobic is because they feel uncomfortable with another man possibly having feelings for them and watching them change. So instead of accepting this fact, they deny that there may be gay people on their team. There obviously have been gay players on many teams in the NFL and the continued ridicule and denial of their teammates makes it very hard for them to come out. In a few cases they wait until they are out of a homophobic environment to say who they truly are. One thing to note is that no players came in gay, so that means it isn’t just the NFL, but football in general that keeps guys scared of coming out. This points to what the media tells everyone what a football player is “supposed to be”.
The media creates an image of what a football player should be: White/Black, Large, Muscular, and Straight. There is no specification on social status, but that being a football player in its self is a higher social status. Through this one could imply that because gays aren’t portrayed as football players, they aren’t manly enough or at a high enough social status. Why is it that media cuts off the Intersectionality of football players at sexual orientation. This is extremely problematic because it makes it seems as though gay men are not good enough, and creates a contested space that they must choose one or the other. It is so ingrained in our society through the media that football players can only be minimally intersectional that we have come to believe it. This creates that unbreakable fear for gay football players to come out during their careers. Players have already proved that you can be gay and play football. It is time for football organizations, teammates, and American society as a whole to accept that gay men can play football at a highly competitive level.