HOUSTON -- Lately the discussion of gay NFL players doesn't ask if there are any, but rather centers around when a gay player would feel comfortable enough to make his sexual orientation public.
It's a good shift. It indicates the dissipation of stereotypes which might have led some in the past to believe a gay man couldn't possibly be part of the uber-macho sport of football, and good enough to reach its highest level.
It also indicates personal acceptance, even if the idea of coming out to strangers and becoming a major news story might be daunting for such a personal moment.
There's plenty of anecdotal evidence that gay men have played in the NFL. One such piece comes today from a Houston Chronicle story in which members of the 1993 Houston Oilers said they had two gay teammates.
"Listen, those guys that we’re talking about were unbelievable teammates. And if you wanted to go to war with someone, you would get those guys first. Because I have never seen tougher guys than those guys,” said Pro Bowl linebacker Lamar Lathon, who starred at the University of Houston. “And everybody in the locker room, the consensus knew or had an idea that things were not exactly right. But guess what? When they strapped the pads on and got on the field, man, we were going to war with these guys because they were unbelievable.”
The headline of this story focuses on two aspects 1) that two members of that famous team were gay and 2) that the team as a whole didn't care.
Today's post is just part of a bigger project the Chronicle is working on for this weekend. In it, two players are quoted as saying they had no issue with their gay teammates. I'd be curious to know how true that second supposition is. Lathon used the phrase "not exactly right" in regard to his gay teammates, even while complimenting their toughness.
A football locker room is big. The opinions of two might not be the opinions of everybody, or even a majority. Even today, when homosexuality is more widely accepted than at any other time in American history, occasionally a player will reveal his antipathy for playing with a hypothetically gay teammate.
I'd like to know more about the dynamics of that locker room 20 years ago. Knowing that, even from so long ago, could offer a window into how a more public situation could unfold today.