Back in March, a month before the NBA's Jason Collins revealed he was gay, CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman wrote that some people believed the atmosphere was safe for an NFL player to come out.
Linebackers Scott Fujita and Brendon Ayanbadejo and punter Chris Kluwe have long championed gay rights, and all think NFL locker rooms could handle a gay teammate. On Thursday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell weighed in on the matter. In an interview with NFL.com's Steve Wyche, Goodell was asked, in light of the positive response to Collins coming out, if he believed a gay player would be "accepted."
"Yes. Again, I have such great respect for our players," Goodell said. "I don't think it will just be tolerated, I think it will be accepted. These are individuals who play in our league. We're all different in some fashion, and we're accepting of our differences. That's what this is all about.
"To me, if it happens in the league, that's a personal choice that someone would decide to do," the commissioner continued. "But I know their teammates and teams, and I think the fans will all respond the right way."
Earlier this spring, Jim Buzinski of Outsports.com, a website about "sports and gay athletes and fans," told the New York Times the NFL should speak out on the issues of diversity in the workplace.
“Roger Goodell needs to stand up and say something about this,” Buzinski said at the time. “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.”
And now the league, through Goodell, has done that.
NFL Player's Association president Domonique Foxworth said in March he could envision a scenario where multiple gay players come out. However it happens, Foxworth says those players will have the full backing of the union.
“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 said. “But the NFLPA, as long as I'm president of it, is going to be behind that player and providing support."