The NFL – A Staple of Homophobic Rhetoric

chris culliver
Latest posts by Ian Proegler (see all)

Since June, the NFL has seen a lot of mixed reactions from the movement from within the league for a player to come out as gay. The player never did come out.

Everything had been set in place and there had never been a better time for a player from within the NFL to come out and gain support for such a movement. It was a beautiful period for the American sport because it showed that a time for change had truly come over the nation. But of course, once the player didn’t come out, it instead showed a lack thereof. Understanding that there was still a lot of ignorance on the side of homophobia within and outside of the NFL, there was a tremendous amount of support for such a player. Once the headline broke that a player would indeed be coming out around June, there was a fairly surprising amount of support for this to happen.

One gay-rights advocate even called it, “the spring of optimism for the NFL and gay rights.”

Let’s take a look at the statistics side of this: there are around two-thousand players in the NFL. There are bound to be dozens, if not hundreds, of gay players who have decided to not be public about their orientation. While, yes one player coming out in the NFL is a big deal and a step forward for tolerance, and all of that shiny stuff, it still leaves a lot to be admired for tolerance sake. While the public and fans of the NFL probably don’t facilitate this fact in their heads, there is a higher number of players within the league that are gay without the public’s knowledge of it. The league office backs the “idea” of an openly gay player, but officials within the league think that American football is still “three to five years” away from the level of tolerance of accepting a gay player.

That’s an interesting concept, as far as “ideas” go. Last I checked, this was a sport full of adults. Adults that might have wives or a girlfriend or a boyfriend, and a house, and participate in a life outside of football when they aren’t training or playing. Is it really that big of a challenge for their maturity levels to handle playing with a gay player? It’s football, American football mind you, but a sport nonetheless. How is this even an issue to them? Their sexual orientation doesn’t have any impact on whether they can run yards or defend their team mates or throw a ball. Their sexual orientation doesn’t have any impact on whether or not they made the team, because they already did.

What the players fail to realize is that they’ve been playing with closeted-gay teammates for as long as they have been in the NFL. When these players, who don’t think they can tolerate gay people in the NFL, go out in public to go to dinner, chances are there is at least one gay person in the vicinity. Is that player’s meal affected in any way by that gay person’s presence? No. When they go to Starbucks, is their coffee tainted by the fact that a gay person might also be getting a coffee in that same location? Unless the milk was burned by the barista, no. Not at all. My point, amid the analogies, is that these players, who are so wired into their inherent homophobia, fail to realise that they are around gay people whether they privy it or not. It’s not affecting their life so why should someone else’s sexual orientation have any bearing on how they play the sport?

In a fun quote during a media day press conference before this past Super Bowl, 49ers defensive back Chris Culliver said, “I don’t do the gay guys, man. I don’t do that. Got no gay people on the team. They gotta get up outta here if they do.” Funnily enough, despite that not even being a coherent or literate sentence (which really speaks to the adjunct education level of some of these players), that is arrogant in thinking that these closeted gay players would even find their heterosexual team mates attractive.

It’s the all-too-common fear with straight men that all gay men are somehow attracted to them, which of course is completely, statistically, false. But it’s even more ridiculous to think in that mindset in the NFL, a sport where over 56% of its participants are medically obese.  Let’s look at another part of that ludicrous and ignorant statement: these “heterosexual” players of the NFL who are so grossly homophobic don’t seem to realize that they spend much of their professional lives dog-piling other men. Hm. Interesting way to spend your heterosexual life, while versing and preaching homophobia.

Why do any of these players even care if their team mate comes out or not? So instead of worrying about whether or not your fellow player is going to enjoy a celebratory dinner after the game with his boyfriend or husband, why not focus on winning. Because of course, that’s what you’re paid to do.