Poll: 86 Percent Of NFL Players Would Welcome Gay Teammate

A new survey from NFL Nation and ESPN Magazine suggests that while most players in the NFL would welcome a gay teammate, on and off the field, there may be other issues ahead.

MichaelsamThe survey was obviously generated in response to Michael Sam, who may become the first openly gay player in the NFL after the draft, and his coming out experience. The most telling statistic revealed that of the fifty-one players polled, forty-four (or 86%) responded "False" to the statement, "A player's sexual orientation matters to you." Thirty-nine answered affirmatively when asked if they would shower around a gay teammate, too, perhaps putting some of Rush Limbaugh's concerns to rest.

Where the poll soured slightly was in the amount of homophobic language used by coaches as well as other team members. Thirty-two poll respondents said that they "had teammates or coaches who used homophobic slurs last season." This mixed bag of largely supportive teammates and offensive rhetoric seemed evident in the final question on the survey. When asked to respond "True" or "False" to the statement "An openly gay player would be comfortable in an NFL locker room," twenty-five respondents were affirmative while twenty-one were negative (five did not respond).

ESPN.com reports on the data:

If Missouri defensive end Michael Sam is drafted in May and becomes the NFL's first openly gay player, he'll walk into a league that seems to be moving closer to acceptance but is still dealing with growing pains as it does so…

One concern for players appeared to be learning how they could relate to a teammate they knew was gay and whether they would need to behave any differently around him.

According to one starting receiver, "Whoever takes [Sam in the draft] should have an open talk at the beginning of camp, where everybody can ask what he's comfortable with, what offends him, what boundaries there should be. When it comes to race, people already know the boundaries, to a certain extent. But I don't think football players are overly familiar with what can and can't be said around a gay person."

Sam reportedly gained a great deal of strength from his teammates throughout his coming out process, and one NFL tight end said he was unsure whether he could find the same level of support on an NFL team.

"There is a little more of a family environment in college. It was more like having brothers. In the NFL, you have friends, but it's a more work-oriented environment. I hope guys can be professional and respect who he is and leave his personal life out of it."

So do we. Sam, who was named defensive player of the year in the SEC, deserves a spot in the NFL. 


  1. Murgatroid says

    The sample is too small to come across as anything but well-intentioned propaganda. You need solid believable numbers and sincere outspoken opinions with faces for this kind of publicity to work.

    Any small-town high-school football team on youtube supporting their gay players (you saw it) is worth a thousand flimsy surveys.

  2. anon says

    “But I don’t think football players are overly familiar with what can and can’t be said around a gay person”

    Here’s a thought. Why say anything at all?

  3. Mona says

    44 guys said they don’t care about gay players, but 39 said they would take a shower with a gay player. So there are 5 guys out there who don’t care, but don’t want to share a shower with a guy they don’t care about? That’s some twisted logic.

  4. Francis says

    So most NFL players would be OK with a gay teammate but there are certain cultural issues and ignorance in general that means there are potential barriers in place that would keep a gay player from feeling comfortable. That’s about what I expected.

  5. Chuck says

    The shower question is intrinsically anti-logical and emotive. Everyone already showers with gay people. Gay people don;t leer at men in the shower because they are decent, respectful guys and don’t want to get a reputation as a leering weirdo, as a out gay man or not. I’m gay and I don’t men staring at me in the shower at the gym: I’m married and I’m attracted to perhaps 15% of the guys I shower with, and not uncontrollably attracted at that.

  6. Rick says

    There is no need to interpret all this to death.

    Most straight guys are still a little uncomfortable with gay guys, but most are willing to give an openly gay guy a chance if he measures up to their standards of on-field performance and if he execises common sense in situations that are potentially awkward (i.e. in the shower)

    I have every confidnece that Michael Sam will pass the test and that will make it easier for others that come after him.

    My bigger concern is that he won’t make a team–he is something of a ‘tweener–a little undersized for an NFL defensive lineman and a little too slow to be an outside linebacker…..and if he does not make a team, accusations are going to fly and that will not be a good thing.

    Which is why the ideal situation would be for an established star player to come out, rather than an aspiring one, but we have to go with what we have got.

  7. Rick says

    “The shower question is intrinsically anti-logical and emotive.”

    Not really.

    Would you consider it intrinsically anti-logical and emotive for women not to want a naked man in the shower with them, especially a straight one, but even a gay one?

    I certainly would not want a straight woman in a shower with me and other men.

    The discomfort is from knowing that there is someone looking at you while you are butt-naked, someone you have very good reason to think is at least having sexual thoughts about you, even if he is not going to act on them. And that is going to be a little uncomfortable for anybody……

    Just human nature–it can be worked around and I am sure it will be, but to just dismiss it out-of-hand as invalid is not legit…..

  8. Tyler says

    Rick, just because your a gay-hating, misogynist closet case with no self control doesn’t mean that your negative assumption about gay players has any worth or merit.