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2013 NFL Rookie Symposium to address sexual orientation

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com

Browns QB Brandon Weeden talks to youth at the 2012 Rookie Symposium. (USATSI)
The 2013 NFL Rookie Symposium, which begins Sunday, will address sexual orientation. It's the latest step by the country's most popular sport to create an atmosphere of acceptance for when a player comes out.

In the wake of NBA player Jason Collins' announcement that he is homosexual, Robert Gulliver, the NFL's chief human resource officer, told ESPNNewYork.com, "I would not be surprised if there are more players coming out."

Last month, in light of the positive response to Collins coming out, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell weighed in on the matter, telling NFL.com that he believed a gay player would be "accepted."

"Yes. Again, I have such great respect for our players," Goodell said at the time. "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."

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. And back in March, CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman wrote that some people believed the atmosphere was safe for an NFL player to come out.

It's a good start but there's still progress to be made. During Super Bowl week, 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver said openly gay players wouldn't be welcome in the locker room (he later apologized).

In March, Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons suggested that coming out would be a "selfish act." And a month later, Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace admitted that he didn't understand why "guys wanna mess with other guys" before clarifying that he wasn't saying whether it was "right or wrong" and apologizing to anyone he may have offended.

This spring, NFL Player's Association president Domonique Foxworth said he could envision a scenario where multiple gay players would come out. And 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."

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