Brendon Ayanbadejo: Only 3% Of NFL Is Gay

BrendonBrendon Ayanbadejo, the Baltimore Ravens linebacker who became one of the sport's most vocal supporters of marriage equality this year, was asked by Fox Sport's Alex Marvez whether when he thinks an NFL player will come out while still playing the field.

Basically, Ayanbadejo's not sure, mostly because he thinks there's a far lower percentage of gay people among players than among the general population.

Regardless of when this hypothetical player comes out, though, Ayanbadejo's convinced he'll be able to make some serious cash selling his story.

The transcript, via Outsports:

Marvez: …How long do you think it will be until the first active gay NFL player emerges?

Ayanbadejo: That's a good question. I don't know. I have a whole theory that some people would believe is kind of counterintuitive to a lot of stuff that I preach about LGBT rights. In no way am I trying to offend the LGBT community. But my theory after playing in the NFL for so long is that there are certain traits NFL players have and don’t have.

Now, if there's a negative thing about NFL players, we tend to be angrier (than non-players). We clearly have higher testosterone because you have to genetically to play this game. With that comes bipolar (disorder), split personality and certain negative things. That’s not everybody, but I think the rate is higher than the general population.

I believe that there are not as many gay people in the NFL as in the regular population. This is a discussion I’ve been having on Twitter for quite some time now. Some people say, "You're stupid." But even though there is not yet a proven gay gene, I believe people are born gay. It is a natural phenomenon.

There are definitely gay players in the NFL. I'm not saying that there are not. Some people say the gay guys in the NFL aren't coming out because they're scared and worried about what’s going to happen to their careers. But I think the first person who comes out and says they are gay, everyone is going to write a book and do stories about them. They're going to make a lot more money by saying they're gay than by not saying they’re gay. But are we ready to hear that? Is that person going to be comfortable to do that? I don’t think they are right now because of society and the way things are.

Eventually, I think there will be someone. But the number (of gay players) is so minute. If they say the regular population is 7 to 9 percent (LGBT), in the NFL it might be 3 percent. I could be completely wrong, but I've played for so long and so many others have. When you hear players coming out that are retired, they are few and far between. Why wouldn’t we hear about more players if it's the same percentage like in the regular population?

What I'm saying is controversial. There is no proof. It's just my theory.


  1. robroy says

    I think he makes some very interesting points about the type of personalities who pursue a career in the NFL. I also wonder how many gay men who might have the physical talent/mentality for the NCAA or NFL football backed away when they are younger because of the homophobia in the sport, not fitting in or simply the fact that it is damned uncomfortable to stare at a body like that without completely showing your hand. I rememeber the point at which being in a locker room became an absolute nightmare as a confused teen.

  2. robroy says

    I think he makes some very interesting points about the type of personalities who pursue a career in the NFL. I also wonder how many gay men who might have the physical talent/mentality for the NCAA or NFL football backed away when they are younger because of the homophobia in the sport, not fitting in or simply the fact that it is damned uncomfortable to stare at a body like that without completely showing your hand. I rememeber the point at which being in a locker room became an absolute nightmare as a confused teen.

  3. says

    I know the dude sounds like a bona fide whackadoo but there might actually end up being a bit of truth to his speculations. It’s at least plausible that guys who excel all the way to professional-level football fall within a higher range of aggressiveness. While gay men can also have high natural aggression (and of course there will be exceptions overlapping every category), it seems ours is less physical in expression. Well, except where sex is concerned. :p

    So sure, if we’re just throwing around wild guesses and theories, I think 3% is probably a realistic estimate of gays in pro football. And it’ll be decades before anyone will be able to provide any numerical proof whatsoever.

  4. jvc says

    Doesn’t seem all that controversial to me. I’m sure there are fewer gay men playing football percentage-wise than general population, just as there are fewer straight guys in say the fashion industry. Interests are just different. No biggee, it’s just the way it is.

  5. john says

    I come from a family of extremely talented athletes, and it was generally considered that I was the best, most natually gifted of all of us – had a father and brother who played professionally, and another brother who went to the olympics. However, because of my own fears and the general homophobia in sports, I moved away from the big three – football, basketball and baseball – and played soccer,and danced. In some ways I’m very happy that the general environment seems to be changing, and hope someday the love of the game and the love of one’s self can be proportionate enough to allow a successful career in professional sports to an out athlete.

  6. jleo71 says

    @ Robroy. There is a huge similarity with the Marine corp and look how many gay men sign up for that. I think it could be exactly that type of challenge that brings gay men to both the NFL and the Marines. Which would mean there are probably more gay men in the NFL than he thinks. JMHO.

  7. MichaelJ says

    Interest comments, by both Ayanbedjo and in this thread.
    JLEO71: I hope you’ll expand on your comment. Two questions: 1) What exactly do you mean by “that type of challenge”? 2) Is the Marine Corp known for attracting gay men, more so than the other branches of the military? I’d always heard that gay men tended to join the Navy (and not because of the Village People song!), but being a civilian and not knowing any gay people in the military, I really don’t know.

  8. Graphicjack says

    I don’t know about present day reasons for joining the marines, JLEO71, but I’d hazzard a guess that historically gay men have been attracted to the marines because being isolated on a ship for months without women probably meant a higher chance of sex with other men. With football, that same isolation doesn’t exist, so it’s weak to compare the two.

  9. BGKev says

    I would guess that team sports have a good deal more BIsexuals and fewer strictly gay men than the general population. The whole “it’s just horsing around” thing is easier to accept when they know they actually do like girls.

  10. kennetd says

    This headline is misleading. Ayanbadejo makes a relative statement that given that gays are 9% of the general population, the NFL would have 3% or 1/3 of the amount in the general population. He actually discounts the quantity that would come out publicly as well. He’s given hypothesis that could be testable.
    Ayanbedejo’s estimate about the proportion of gays in the general population is far too high. He would probably reduce his estimate if he had better information to start with. Still, his argument is well reasoned.

  11. Rick says

    He is right, in my opinion, but perhaps for the wrong reasons, just as JVC’s comment that “it’s just the way it is” above is also wrong.

    The real issue when it comes to football and other masculine interests is not a lack of testosterone in gay men–in fact study after study has shown those levels to be identical in gay and straight men, just as other studies have demonstrated that there are no physiological differences at all between men that correlate with sexual orientation.

    No, the real problem–and it extends way beyond football–is that the prevailing culture associates homosexuality with a lack of masculinity and equates heterosexuality with robust masculinity. Therefore boys who find themselves attracted to other males sexually internalize this notion, in the absence of any role models or reinforcement mechanism that would contradict this notion.

    The gay movement, unfortunately, has made this problem worse rather than better, by embracing the notion of “gender-non-conformity” and the “that’s just the way things are” propagated by JVC in the comment I referenced above.

    So what is the result of this? The result is that boys who would otherwise have and pursue the same masculine interests that straights do instead get artificially steered to less masculine interests and behaviors, to their own and society’s detriment, away from football, for example, and towards “fashion design”.

    Until this vicious cycle is disrupted and the idea that homosexuality equates to masculine deficiency is discarded, both by the larger society and by gay men, themselves, then damage will continue to be done to young men’s lives and the numbers of them who participate in masculine activities like football will remain artificially low.

    This is why the culture of effeminacy has got to go–and the sooner, the better.

  12. Miguel says

    The percentage of Gays in the general population,and in the NFL is MUCH larger.If every gay/bi man came out of the closet today.People would have the shock of their life.

  13. Dan Cobb says

    You know…. this guy is brave enough and thoughtful enough to be talking about this issue. I give him HUGE props. Let’s face it, how many straight guys spend even a minute wondering what it would be like for a gay guy in the NFL. This man is very impressive in the thinking department, as far as I’m concerned.

  14. Rich says

    You’re partially on the right track, but with (as usual) the wrong solution. I’ve live long enough to see a lot of stereotypes in action and watch them fade away:

    women who worked were secretaries or teachers or nurses.
    cops were Irish males
    trash collectors were Italian males
    physicians were Jewish males
    janitors and elevator operators were black males
    laundries were Chinese
    and of course, florists and beauticians were gay males

    Stereotypes die hard, but they do fade. away. Denigrating the traits attached to any of them probably hinders rather than accelerates this evolution.

  15. Rick says

    “The percentage of Gays in the general population,and in the NFL is MUCH larger.If every gay/bi man came out of the closet today.People would have the shock of their life.”

    I used to think that, but I don’t any more. I realized that the percentages we used to throw around (like claiming that 10% of the population is gay) were just wishful thinking and were not borne out by either every-day experience or by empirical evidence.

    The recent UCLA study that suggested that about 3% of the population is gay (i.e. has a strong sexual preference for members of the same sex vs. those of the opposite sex)and perhaps another 3% are reasonably actively bisexual seems pretty accurate to me. A higher percentage of men than that will occasionally have sex with another man, but the vast majority of these are basically heterosexuals who will allow another guy to perform oral sex on them if the opportunity presents itself.

    All this considered, I suspect that there are no more than a handful of truly gay players in the NFL…..and that is borne out, as Ayanbadejo points out, by the tiny number of FORMER players who have come out, most of whom, at this point, would have everything to gain, financially and otherwise, by coming out and capitalizing on it.

  16. says

    this man is rather awesome.

    and here’s a fun fact: the “effeminacy hating” gay male population yearn for a revolution that will never come. why will it never come? because their stance is one only held by those who are Closeted.

    openly gay men who are confident and comfortable with themselves take no issue with perceived “effeminacy” in other men.

    and since Closeted Adults don’t have the balls to be the change they want to see, they’ll waste their entire lives screaming furiously from the darkness of an Online Closet because they’re simply not man enough to go Out, LIVE Out, and be any sort of example whatsoever.

    One cannot wish that, uh, “effeminate men” disappear when the self-styled (yet always cowardly Closeted) “super-masc” men refuse to stand up to be counted.

    there’s nothing masculine about being “discreet” and even less about being “anti-femme”.

    no masculine men denigrate “effeminate” men. only cowards.

  17. Francis says

    Um, based on recent polling, about 5-6% of people identify as something other than straight. So the 2-3% number, which was never believable, is nothing but anti-gay conjuncture.

    If 5-6% already identify as LGBT and we already know most people do not tell the truth or simply don’t respond to such polls. So the real number is likely significantly higher. Plus if you add the straight-identifying men who engage in same-sex intercourse, and the bisexual/gay men who identify as straight.

    Sexuality is a continuum. It’s way more complex that many seem to believe it is.

    As for Brendon, he’s right. Military is different, the allure to fight for your country is so strong for some it often does transcend any fears regarding potential homophobia. It’s easier to be a bit more low key in the military than in sports. And especially now, DADT is repealed. DADT is still essentially in place in sports.

    I’ve read a LOT of NHL players have been seen at gay clubs and parties. Doesn’t mean they’re gay of course, but that goes to show the different culture NHL, soccer in America, has over NFL or MLB. Even in those sports there is homophobia. Even in figure skating and gymnastics where there are many many gays, there is homophobia. Of course it stifles people from entering the sport. Nothing negative about stating the reality.

  18. jjose712 says

    He is probably right. The whole mentality of this macho team sport discourage a lot of gay teens to play that sport.
    In my opinion there are more gays on individual sports than on team sports.

    And my prediction is that the first really high profile (on a mainstream sport) to come out it will probably be a tennis player. Because if he is really good, he can survive without sponsors and he doesn’t depend of a coach to play.
    Not that i think he will lose sponsors, in fact i think the sponsors will be more than happy of fully support a good gay tennis player (it will be good publicity, of course) but he will survive without them, and that’s something that in other sports is a lot more difficult.

    In a team sport is not just an individual decision, you need the support of your team, and a very supportive coach before you take that step

  19. Jake says

    Most same-sex oriented men who play college and professional football are very masculine and mainstream. They are also most likely at least functionally bisexual, not exclusively homosexual/gay. Hence, Thus group is very unlikely to identify as gay or ever come out as such. Very few masculine dudes who are not athletes ever come out, do you know very few NFL players ever will.

  20. says

    only masculine men come out. to be closeted is to be the exact opposite of “masculine”. unless one thinks “hiding away in fear of what people will think” is a masculine quality….

    and that’s not to say they’re feminine. they’re just boys. not men.

  21. Rick says

    @RICH What you are missing is that stereotypes associated with other minorities and with women did not “just go away”–they only went away because of an ACTIVE EFFORT being made by people to bring about change.

    Whatever one thinks of feminism, for example, (and I don’t think much of it, myself), the reality is that women only stopped thinking they could only be nurses and not doctors or secretaries and not executives was because of the consciousness-raising that feminists engaged in in the 70’s.

    They did not denigrate nurses or secretaries in the process, but they did encourage women to think beyond that and not believe that that is all they could be because that wss “just the way things are”.

    The media plays a role, too. Nowadays, you could watch 50 episodes of cop shows on network television and never see a black male portrayed as the “bad guy”, even though statistics show that the majority of the violent crime in America is perpetrated by black males. Why? Because any producer or writer that does cast a black male in the role of “bad buy” will be set upon by the NAACP and other black organizations who will object to the “stereotyping” of black men as criminals.

    But when gay men are depicted on screen as cowardly, screaming, lisping queens, do you see GLAAD or any other organization objecting to it? No. They not only don’t object to it, but they applaud it and give the perpetrators of such stereotyping awards for having done so……in the process doing severe damage to that budding young gay male football player in the Heartaland.

    So the bottom line is that the culture of effeminacy has to be attacked directly and recognized as the evil that it is; otherwise, it will continue to linger and fester. I wish there were another way, but there isn’t particularly since there is a contingent in the gay community that embraces that culture and actively seeks to perpetuate it.

  22. says

    no, troll rick. because you femme-haters are destined to die in your closets. enjoy!

    you drink your poison and sit and wait for it to kill off others.

    the cowardly gays aren’t the proud and Out queens. it’s the cowards who spew venom about queens from the anonymity of online.

    behind every “femme-hating” gay man is the father who resented having him for a son.

    thanks for continuing to prove the rest of us right.

    may you off yourself in 2013.

  23. Rick says

    “Most same-sex oriented men who play college and professional football are very masculine and mainstream. They are also most likely at least functionally bisexual, not exclusively homosexual/gay. Hence, Thus group is very unlikely to identify as gay or ever come out as such. Very few masculine dudes who are not athletes ever come out, do you know very few NFL players ever will”

    And why is that, Jake? It is for the very reason I have given–that “gay” still carries the stigma of effeminacy and UN-masculinity.

    You are absolutely right when you say that masculine men attracted to other men are never going to associate themselves with a culture of effeminacy, so we will always be limited in the amount of real change we can expect as long as the culture of effeminacy persists.

    There is a reason why the “OUT 100″ not only does not include many professional athletes, but virtually no executives (other than entrepreneurs), no prominent doctors, no university presidents or scholars, no scientists, indeed, hardly anyone who is not in the arts or in some other stereotypical ares of society.

    And the reason for that is crystal-clear to anyone who opens his eyes.

  24. Rick says

    You can tell I’m really masculine because all masculine men come on to the interwebs to complain about effeminate men. That’s the definition of masculinity.

    And when I was a little girl I liked to poop in my own mouth.

  25. Merry & Gay says

    Football is the game with the weird shaped ball, right?

    Umm, no, football is the game without a ball. They have that egg-shaped leather thingy with two pointy ends that they throw around and kick.

    It’s confusing because the Euro countries have football with a real ball, you know, spherical and all. They kick it too, but they NEVER throw it (maybe because it gets all dirty). But THEY let it bounce off their heads! Go figure!

  26. steven lucas says

    The gay media and Outsports keeps talking of gay men but almost totally ignores bisexual men. Is it because bisexual men aren’t as politically useful as gay men?

    Way back in the 1940’s – a time when homosexuality was illegal and punishable by jail or death – Kinsey got about half of all men in his research study to admit to having same-sex feelings. Considering the laws against homosexuality at the time, it’s amazing that Kinsey got any of his male subjects to admit to it.

    My point is that, while there may be a small percentage of men who are exclusively gay, there are many more who swing both ways. It’s the big “dirty” secret amongst men who view any degree of same-sex interest as an embarrassment. Even in 2012, it is still a huge stigma.

  27. steven lucas says

    Why does every conversation about gay men turn into an argument about effeminate men versus masculine men? Effeminacy and masculinity are not the definitions of sexuality. They are merely artifices. If you’re going to converse on sexuality, please keep the conversation on topic and stop arguing on artifices.

  28. Caliban says

    Actually, G, you’re wrong. Between 5-6% of people in the 20-30 age range identify as gay and that obviously doesn’t include closet cases. Kinsey was probably pretty close with his 10% estimate, though you have to take into account those who will marry anyway, identify as straight but seek out men on the side, some of them almost obsessively. That will also include those “religious” folks who have been brainwashed to hate themselves, be professional homophobes when what they want most is c*ck.

  29. Paul R says

    It’s not a mystery. Men are horny. Kinsey interviewed inmates and members of the military, both of whose choices were limited. Give a straight guy a few drinks and he becomes more sexually flexible. Be fairly attractive and your odds improve at getting ostensibly straight guys in bed. This is news?

    I gave up on it when I was a teen, but straight guys flirt with me nearly every day. It’s harmless.

  30. Kyle says

    He didn’t offer any coherent theory, but he did qualify his statements with plenty of weasel words. There are obvious social reasons why gay men might avoid the NFL. There are possibly biological ones as well. That’s not to say that homosexuality has necessary correlates (no study on gay men has a found a single (non-sexual) trait common to all of us), but that different subsets of men have different rates of homosexuality.

  31. Caliban says

    I wouldn’t call them “weasel words,” but he qualified his statements so as not to offend gays, who he clearly supports.

    If you accept or believe that gays make up a higher than usual percentage of certain professions like the creative and performance arts, education, medicine, etc. than you have to accept there are professions where gays are less represented, whether that’s due to homophobia inherent in those professions or some supposed intrinsic quality of gays.

    There are probably fewer gay men who are policemen than average, for instance, because policing is quasi-military and has long been tasked with enforcing laws that were in opposition to gay rights. There are exceptions of course, and some are drawn to professions that are seen as overtly masculine for various reasons.

  32. says

    I appreciate Brandon and his comments but he just omitted the boatload of bisexuals that exist in the NFL. There are a number of them, but most rather ignore their existence, which is also called “bisexual erasure”, something very common and often done by so many.

  33. Chris says

    jjose, the first athlete to come out will be a tennis player. A little out of date here, or have you forgotten Billie Jean King or Martina Navritalova or is it that lesbians don’t count? Never forget that women have had more courage than men in professional sport and when they came out it cost them a lot in endorsements.

  34. Diogenes Arktos says

    I’m not convinced the number of gay men in professional sports really differs from the number in the general population. It makes perfect sense that athletes, like Boy Scouts, start their sports when young and simply keep going in spite of the homophobia they encounter, out of love for their sport.

    There has been more recent research which uses the Kinsey scale but concludes that the number of MALE bisexuals has been *greatly* overestimated.

    OTOH, I have a friend who, back in the late 1970s/early 1980s, was a boy toy for both an MLB player and an NFL player, who now have a wife and children. It was a time when a straight man could have a clearly obvious bottom as a boy toy. He was welcome in the locker room and everyone knew exactly what services he supplied for the player. BTW – The NFL player was also a regular in gay bars: he didn’t care who you were as long as you worshiped his body.

  35. GregV says

    “If they say the regular population is 7 to 9 percent …”

    Ayanbadejo is only throwing out a hypothetical number here (He could just ad easily have said any other number) so nobody should jump on this as if he’s stating an exact estimate.
    EVERY study on this question can not possibly make an accurate estimate, and the vast majority are obvious UNDERestimates.
    For example, that study fuom UCLA makes statements about what percentage of gay or bi people might be closeted (their most liberal estimates are that around 90% of gay and bi people are closeted).
    . But they seem to assume in all of their estimates that all of the closeted people were willing to tell a stranger who says he’s doing a study that they had sex during their adult lives with people of the same sex.
    In reality, some of those people ARE straight and the ones who are actually gay or bi are at most SEMI-closeted if they were willing to chit-chat about real gay experiences in states where doing so means they can be fired from their jobs or kicked out of their home by a landlord.
    Under ALL of the definitions used in the UCLA study (and nearly every other study, including several I HAVE been included in) I would have been counted as 100% heterosexual at most points in my life, in spite of the fact I am completely gay and always have been.

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