If football isn’t the ultimate masculine/gladiator sport, it’s certainly right up there. As a result of that factor, not to mention the perceived group-think of the locker room, meeting room, and huddle, and supposed “caveman” mentality some believe it takes to play the game, there are some who would tell you that no openly gay player would be able to survive (literally or figuratively) in the NFL. But in a recent series of interviews with current and former NFL players, OutSports.com found that the perception is not reality. If the small group interviewed represent the majority, attitudes have definitely come around about any NFL player who would choose to come out…
...That tolerance goes back further than you think. Vince Lombardi, seen as the ultimate authority figure, and championed as a pillar of supposed “clean-cut” values for generations of football fans, had an openly gay brother, and often told his players that anyone who had a problem with the concept of homosexuality could not play for him. It was the same as any other kind of bias to the coach—and in an era where he had to wait far longer than he should have for a head coaching job because of his Italian heritage, Lombardi despised prejudice of any kind…
...Perhaps the most encouraging part of the interview was the take of those players just coming into the league—OutSports spoke with rookies Trent Richardson, Robert Griffin III, Doug Martin, Coby Fleener, Nick Foles, LaMichael James, and T.J. Graham. To a man, the players who will comprise the future of the league didn’t have a problem with the concept—and many wondered why it was a big deal at all.
File this under: Things I didn't know about Vince Lombardi.
The real test, of course, for all of this stated tolerance will come out (pun totally intended) when a current NFL player says he's openly gay. It's likely the issue will divide the locker room internally--even if only a little. There are simply too many players like David Tyree out there. Publicly, the team and the league will support openly gay players. Legally, they'll have little choice. And the public backlash they'd receive for not doing so would be more intense than Tebowmania x 10.
Never forget that sports is often simply a reflection of the culture upon which it was built. As American culture and attitudes change (or don't), so do its sports, arts, and entertainment. Art often sets the pace, while sports, like a set of economic indicators, often tags behind.
It's obvious, no matter your personal views, where the trend is going, however. In another decade, it won't even be an issue.