Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker and special teams standout Brendon Ayanbadejo has been in the news during the past year at least as much for his staunch support of marriage equality and gay rights as for his on-field performance.
After being cut by the Super Bowl champs on Thursday, the 36-year-old spoke to The Baltimore Sun about his release, his relationship with the Ravens as well as the timeline for the first gay NFL player to come out publicly during his career.
"I think it will happen sooner than you think," Ayanbadejo told Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun. "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."
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Ayanbadejo's claim that as many as four players are currently considering coming out in the near future comes not long after sources told Mike Freeman of CBSSports.com that a current gay player in the NFL was "strongly considering coming out publicly."
A former NFL player who remained in the closet during his career, former 49ers and Raiders offensive lineman Kwame Harris, discussed the difficulty of being gay in the NFL with CNN in March. Looking back, he wished that he had come out during his playing career.
"No, not while I was playing. I didn't see those two things as being compatible," Harris said when asked by Coy Wire of CNN if he ever considered coming out while playing in the NFL. "But now when I look back in hindsight, if I could have done it differently, I would like to think that I would find the strength or find the fortitude or the grace to kind of make the hard decision."
According to Ayanbadejo, NFL organizations and the league itself are "already being proactive" to prepare for a player to come out. If true, the NFL may need to start by addressing the remaining homophobia in locker rooms around the league. For all the positive, progressive work done by players like Ayanbadejo and Chris Kluwe of the Minnesota Vikings, intolerant comments from players around the league continue to make headlines. Ahead of Super Bowl XLVII, 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver garnered attention with homophobic quotes in a radio interview. After Freeman's report at CBSSports.com, Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons tweeted that coming out would be "a selfish act."