Former NFL player Wade Davis talks to The Daily Beast about gays and the NFL:
When I was playing I had a partner. But he presented as straight so people would think, oh that's just his boy. There is no interrogation of people's friends. You choose very strategically when you're in the closet. You choose someone who's very masculinely presenting, who can pass as just a friend. And a lot of guys rolled with crews. So if there's four or five guys waiting on you afterwards no one's gonna know who that is. And there are other guys who don't have their partners come to the games at all.
I don't think I was afraid of getting caught. It was easier for me to exist in this cloak of secrecy. I just didn't know what to do. I didn't know what the response would be, I didn't know if it would change the team dynamic, I didn't know if I was ready to own it in front of other people, too. Cuz as long as you're denying it to yourself it's not really real. The hardest time was when I was in Barcelona [with the Barcelona Dragons of NFL Europe]. We were in Sitges, the second highest gay populated place in the world. So we'd be looking down at a resort beach and you see hundreds, thousands of gay men on the beach in Speedos and walking the streets shirtless and stuff. Imagine me being closeted there. It was my worst fear come true. And one thing that worked against me is my popularity. Everyone on the team liked me and that prevented me from ever being able to go out and explore alone. There'd be times I try to sneak out at night and people would be like oh I'll go with you and I'd be like damn. Because I wanted to have a conversation with another gay men like what's your life like? But I couldn't get away. So being there was the hardest time in my life and my play suffered. I'd never played so bad because there was so many gay men. Nowhere you went there weren't lots of attractive gay men.
When asked if gays get weeded out due to homophobia before they reach the professional level, Davis adds:
If you're a gay player who can pass, and I use that word unfortunately, then no one knows. No one knew about me. And I think most players take the attitude that if they could pass they will. If they can't then most likely in high school more than college or the pros there is that weeding out process. People don't understand their own sexuality in ninth or tenth grade so you're definitely going to be resistant against someone else who you may assume is gay. There was a guy in my high school and everyone believed he was gay. They called him the Faggot [name]. If he played football he would've definitely been pushed out you don't understand it at that age. I think there are players who are out in colleges now that people probably know who are gay and if you can play most guys are like man, just play. I just think we're in a different space now.
Read the full interview here.