Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo said that as many as four NFL players are considering coming out as gay.
In a Friday morning interview with The Baltimore Sun, the former special teams star clarified comments he made concerning his recent release from the Baltimore Ravens, and elaborated on his beliefs that the NFL was ready to embrace openly gay athletes.
Ayanbadejo, an outspoken advocate for gay rights and same-sex marriage, suggested Thursday that his public stance on the polarizing issue had contributed to his release by the Super Bowl champion Ravens. On Friday, the 36-year-old shed light on his controversial comments.
"The Ravens have been backing me, they knew my stance for years and have been facilitating me and organizing me with LGBT and set me up with Equality Maryland. They helped me," said Ayanbadejo, who spent five seasons in Baltimore. "If they didn't like what I was doing, they would have cut me a long time ago.”
When asked about the possibility of an openly gay player in the NFL in the near future, Ayanbadejo expressed confidence that the day is nearly at hand.
"I think it will happen sooner than you think," Ayanbadejo said. "We're in talks with a handful of players who are considering it. There are up to four players being talked to right now and they're trying to be organized so they can come out on the same day together. It would make a major splash and take the pressure off one guy. It would be a monumental day if a handful or a few guys come out."
The simultaneous revelation would be a major victory for gay athletes, who have struggled to gain a foothold in a sport notorious for its antiquated views on gay rights. In the days leading up to last February’s Super Bowl, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver came under fire for making a series of homophobic comments, suggesting that gay athletes wouldn’t be welcomed in an NFL locker room.
If a group of NFL players came out at the same time, Ayanbadejo argues, similar negative responses could be shouldered by four players, rather than landing on just one.
"If they could share the backlash, it would be more positive,” he told the Sun.
"It's cool. It's exciting," continued Ayanbadejo. "We're in talks with a few guys who are considering it. The NFL and organizations are already being proactive and open if a player does it and if something negative happens. We'll see what happens."