If anywhere between 2 percent to 10 percent of the population is gay, it stands to reason that the number of gay players in the NFL is greater than zero. For now, however, those gay players remain in the closet, but maybe not much longer.
Former Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, Vikings punter Chris Kluwe and Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo have spearheaded the conversation for sexual equality, and CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman wrote earlier this week that some players think the day isn't far off when an openly gay teammate will be accepted for what he is: a professional athlete.
So the question isn't whether there are homosexuals in the NFL but, rather, how will the league, players, media -- and most important -- fans embrace them when they eventually come out.
"I honestly think the players of the NFL have been ready for an openly gay player for quite some time now," Fujita told Freeman. "Trust me, the coming out of a player would create much bigger waves outside the locker room than inside. The way I've seen the conversation around LGBT issues evolve, especially in the past few years, has been encouraging. Guys are more accepting than they used to be. Even those who raise personal objections to homosexuality, some of whom are good friends of mine, would still be able to coexist and accept a gay teammate."
Domonique Foxworth, a former player with the Broncos, Falcons and Ravens who now serves as the president of the NFL Players Association, thinks that once one player goes public, others will soon follow.
“It doesn't have to be one player,” Foxworth said during an appearance on WNST in Baltimore (via PFT) . “When one player comes out, multiple players will come out, because they are in our league right now.”
Which brings us back to something Freeman noted: For at least one gay player, the biggest concern wasn't his teammates but that he might be a target of physical harm by homophobic fans.
“When the public finds out about it, it's going to be a media storm and it's going to be a lot of press and a lot of attention, and probably not all of it's gonna be positive,” Foxworth continued. “But the NFLPA, as long as I'm president of it, is going to be behind that player and providing support."
Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that Troy Vincent, also a former player and now the NFL senior vice president for player engagement, will meet with six groups representing the gay community to discuss the league's policies as well as seek input on how to improve those policies. This comes on the heels of the controversy at the February combine in which teams allegedly asked players about their sexual orientation.
Jim Buzinski of Outsports.com, a website about "sports and gay athletes and fans," told the Times that the league should speak out on the issues of diversity in the workplace.
“Roger Goodell needs to stand up and say something about this,” Buzinski said. “He has never uttered a word about having gay players in the NFL. There are gay players who are known by some people. It's going to happen. We're not going to be waiting seven years for it, like we've been waiting 70 years for it.”
Critics might say that they don't want to have someone's sexuality foisted upon them. But this isn't about that; it's about these players being able to be honest about who they are.
When retired professional soccer player and one-time U.S. Men's National Team member Robbie Rogers came out earlier this year, David Testo, also a former soccer player who announced he was gay in 2011, explained to the Times the emotional toll of living a "double life."
Rogers addressed the matter on his personal website.
"Secrets can cause so much internal damage," he wrote in February. "People love to preach about honesty, how honesty is so plain and simple. Try explaining to your loved ones after 25 years you are gay. Try convincing yourself that your creator has the most wonderful purpose for you even though you were taught differently. "
Rogers' former USMNT teammate, Eddie Pope, perhaps put it best in a tweet of support: “Brave men like you will make it so that one day there is no need for an announcement.”
The NFL, meanwhile, knows this is inevitable. The question is whether they do something now or later.