Terrell Thomas not sure NFL locker room ready for gay player
Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas said he's not sure that an NFL locker room is ready for an openly gay player.
The majority of the reaction to Michael Sam coming out in advance of the 2014 NFL Draft has been positive. Not everyone is convinced Sam's presence will go over smoothly.
For instance, Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas, in an interview with Dan Graziano of ESPN, said that Sam could draw "unwanted attention" which would be "a lot for one player to carry."
"The attention on him is going to bring attention to the team -- unwanted attention, questions that the players, the coaches, the whole organization is going to have to answer -- and that's a lot for one player to carry by himself," Thomas said.
Thomas likened the situation to the Dolphins issue with Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin from earlier in the year, when the locker room was besieged by media attention.
"You just look at what happened this year with the Miami Dolphins' situation," Thomas said. "That became something we were being asked about every day in our locker room, and it wasn't even our team.
"And they're the kinds of questions where you have to think carefully about how you phrase things."
That last statement ironically apparent in Thomas' own words. The cornerback used the phrase "unwanted attention" when talking about Sam. That reeks of a negative connotation, even though Thomas wasn't saying that Sam is unwanted. (It makes for an easier headline too, but I avoided it on purpose because it didn't seem fair to Thomas based on what he said.)
Thomas makes a valid enough point that things could be different in terms of what matters to players on the field versus what matters in the locker room. Unfortunately for him, he used the phrase "uncomfortable" as well.
"I think society is ready for it and America's ready for it, but I don't think the NFL is," Thomas said. "As a player, all you want to know is if he can play. That's on the field. But in the locker room, it's different. There's a lot of talk and joking around, and some guys walk around completely naked all the time, and they might not want to do that anymore.
"When you add that situation to the mix, I think it's going to make some people uncomfortable."
Thomas still clearly understands how to approach the situation, which is by looking "at him like a brother."
"Things are changing, and certain change is inevitable. We have to look at him like a brother and can't treat him any different," Thomas said. "But that could be difficult for some people, just the way our locker rooms work."
And Thomas said he believes he's played with gay teammates before, but knowing "changes a lot of things."
"But there's a difference between knowing and not knowing that changes a lot of things," he said. "You're talking about playing in the NFL, the grind, the brotherhood, the joking that goes along with it.
"The locker room may not be ready for that, because it's the kind of thing that changes everything."
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