Columbia, Mo. (CBS ST. LOUIS) — An anonymous survey of NFL players shows that while most don’t believe sexual orientation matters to them, there are some lingering issues surrounding acceptance of openly gay players.
The ESPN survey of 51 anonymous players – about the sample size of a full team roster – were asked four questions regarding sexual orientation matters in the National Football League. Eighty-six percent said they are okay with a gay teammate, with 44 of the players agreeing that a player’s sexual orientation does not matter to them.
But should Missouri’s Michael Sam be drafted and become the NFL’s first openly gay player next year there is still some remaining concern seen in the survey responses.
Thirty-two of the players agreed that they “had teammates or coaches who used homophobic slurs this past season.” Nineteen of the 51 players surveyed said this was false.
Twenty-five of the players surveyed agreed with the statement, “An openly gay player would be comfortable in an NFL locker room.” Twenty one of the players said this was false, but five players chose not to answer that specific survey question.
Twelve players said that the statement “I would shower around a gay teammate” is false, and 39 of them said it was true.
A change in some behavior and an open policy on talking about the issues surrounding openly gay players were pointed out as necessary factors heading toward more league acceptance. One starting receiver told ESPN that a team’s discussion about Sam, should he be drafted, would need to happen from the very beginning.
“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.”
President Barack Obama even weighed in on the issue, saying in a Sunday TNT interview that he’s proud of Sam’s decision to come out before the NFL Draft.
“I really like the fact that Michael did it before the draft because his attitude was, ‘You know what, I know who I am. I know I can play great football and judge me on the merits,’ ” Obama said of Sam, in a taped interview that aired during TNT’s pregame coverage of Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game. Vice President Joe Biden and the First Lady tweeted out similar encouragements to Sam.