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Out Former Football Player Wade Davis Opens Up About Being Gay In The NFL: VIDEO


With Michael Sam becoming the first openly gay player drafted into the NFL, former NFL player Wade Davis, who publicly came out in 2012, almost a decade after he retired from the sport, is sharing what it was like being a closeted gay black man in the NFL in the early 2000s. In an interview with Al Jazeera America Davis tells how football provided a mask that helped him hide his sexual orientation: “No one ever questioned me as being a gay male because I played football.” Davis went on to say that, for him, coming out while he was still an active player was never an option:

It was something that I really never even thought about. I thought that it was not possible for someone to be a gay male and play the sport of football…It was something that I kind of was domesticated to believe from the age of 7 on up, that football and being gay just didn’t mix.

Wade3Davis, the Executive Director of the 'You Can Play Project', a group working to support LGBT rights and fight homophobia in sports, recently spoke with league coaches and general managers in the NFL about homophobia and how to tackle problems that could arise from having a gay player in the locker room. For his part, Davis explains that the locker room and in particular the showers never provided him with any difficulties:

Well, first of all, most guys look terrible naked, right? [Laughs.] Secondly, those are my brothers. I tell people often, if you put a man in a locker room with women, there’s a chance that he may be excited or aroused. But if those women are his sisters, there is no attraction there.

And so my teammates were my brothers. So, whether they were naked or not didn’t really matter to me.

Davis also delved into why being an openly gay football player might be different than being an out individual in other sports:

I think that football is like this sport that we deem as these gladiator superhuman men, right? I think that the way that we view men and masculinity really plays a role in that. So this idea that someone who can be gay and play this hypermasculine sport, people often think that those two things can’t coexist. I think that there is shortsightedness in the way that we look at men and also in the way that we look at sports. I do a lot of work with the NFL, and I do say that football is about toughness and masculinity and combat. But there are also even higher levels of family, of solidarity, of compassion that people don’t talk about when they think about sports. If you watch a game on Sunday now, as soon as the player gets hurt, you’ll see players from both teams come around and start saying a prayer. After a game, win or lose, there are guys who shake hands, they hug. These are gentlemen who exist in a very violent sport, but the love and the passion that they have for the sport and for each other is actually greater than those other aspects of it. 

Perhaps most poignantly, Davis offers some advice to young LGBT athletes: “Don’t let the love of your sport overshadow the need to love yourself.”

You can watch Parts 1 and 2 of Davis’ interview with Al Jazeera America, AFTER THE JUMP…

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  1. "I do say that football is about toughness and masculinity and combat."

    Indeed. That, in skin-tight capri pants.

    Posted by: JJ | May 14, 2014 10:00:04 AM

  2. Can't wait for the documentary or movie on this very important subject of human experience comes out, this would definitely uncover a lot of overdue topics and answer the hurt and pain...Just why wasn't the Davis story as big as the Sam circus and what is Davis' truest deep down feelings on his now famous 'brother' hmm..who has the book and movie rights to this sizzling story? Could the DL syndrome be over??

    Posted by: Troy | May 14, 2014 10:03:31 AM

  3. I love Wade (seriously, he's a great guy), but I don't understand why he is referred to on this site (and elsewhere) as a former NFL player. He went to some training camps, but was never on a roster during the regular season. Ergo, he was not an NFL player - he was an NFL Europe player, though, so why can't you just say that?

    Posted by: NFL Player? | May 14, 2014 10:16:40 AM

  4. It's great to have his perspective.

    Do straight guys understand how silly they sound worrying about another guy seeing them naked? It's laughable.

    I like this guy's analogy of showering with siblings.

    Posted by: pete n sfo | May 14, 2014 10:49:06 AM

  5. well met!!!

    You know, I've never been treated weirdly by any of my straight friends. When I came out in high school one of my best straight buddies went with me to the gaybars to be my wingman. And a big part is that I, like Wade Davis said, made it clear - As a gay man i'm into other gay men. Showering with my straight buds was the exact opposite of a sexual experience.

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | May 14, 2014 11:09:49 AM

  6. "...and how to tackle problems that could arise from having a gay player in the locker room."

    Every time I read a phrase like this, I think a term like "a gay player" should be replaced by the word "homophobia."

    No problem was ever caused by having a gay player. No gay athlete I've ever met has had or caused any problem with Locke rooms or showers. No straight athlete I've ever met has ever had any problem caused by a teammate's being gay.

    When I've showered with straight friends after playing a sport, the banter goes something like: "Pass the shampoo" and ""Who wants to get beer and 25-cent wings later?" Any questions they ever had about imaginary "over-excited" gays were quickly answered after I came out to them and they instantly realized how silly those ideas were.

    Posted by: GregV | May 14, 2014 11:15:23 AM

  7. AMEN GREG! same thing with families. no family has ever been torn apart because a family member was gay - only ever because a family member was ANTI-gay.

    well said!

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | May 14, 2014 11:19:16 AM

  8. This is who Michael Sam should be dating. Wade Davis would be able to provide the mature perspective that he will definitely need in the months ahead.

    Posted by: Still | May 14, 2014 12:23:25 PM

  9. I don't think they need to date for him to get that mature perspective o.o

    Posted by: Derrick | May 14, 2014 1:29:03 PM

  10. Derrick, I know; but the thought of those two getting it on together kind of turns me on. :)

    Posted by: Still | May 14, 2014 2:00:37 PM

  11. Football: a hypermasculine sport in which plays begin with one man crouching with his ass toward a second man's groin, and the second man reaches between the first man's legs to grab a ball.

    Posted by: JOE 2 | May 14, 2014 5:41:09 PM

  12. I was just kidding. Ergo, I'm special.

    Posted by: NFL PLAYER? | May 15, 2014 2:34:10 AM

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