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NFL survey reveals 86 percent of players would be OK with gay teammate

Missouri linebacker Michael Sam (52) is congratulated by teammate Matt Hoch after returning a fumble seven yards for a touchdown against Southeastern Louisiana during the first quarter, in Columbia, Mo.
Missouri linebacker Michael Sam (52) is congratulated by teammate Matt Hoch after returning a fumble seven yards for a touchdown against Southeastern Louisiana during the first quarter, in Columbia, Mo.Chris Lee, St. Louis Post-Dispatch (AP)

As the NFL’s readiness for an openly gay player continues to be debated, an anonymous survey says most players would be okay with having a gay teammate. According to ESPN on Feb. 17, eighty-six percent of the players surveyed aren’t concerned with another player’s sexual orientation.

Both ESPN.com’s NFL Nation and ESPN The Magazine combined to conduct the survey following Michael Sam’s announcement that he is gay just months before he enters the NFL draft. If drafted, Sam would be the NFL’s first openly gay player. Although some feel Sam’s announcement will drop his stock in the draft, if he is drafted at all, some owners and players feel it shouldn’t be a big deal as long as he can perform on the field.

In the survey, fifty-one players responded to four true-false questions and 44 of those players said a teammate being gay wouldn’t matter to them. One of the main issues that have been brought up is a player feeling comfortable showering around a gay teammate. Out of the fifty-one players, 39 said they would be comfortable. But would a gay player be comfortable in an NFL locker room? Twenty-five players answered yes with the main concern being the use of homophobic slurs that have occurred in locker rooms.

One starting receiver said that comfort issues should be addressed at the beginning of training camp by the team who drafts Michael Sam. It would give players, coaches and Sam a chance to express any concerns.

“Whoever takes [Michael 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.”

Sam has been adamant about just playing football and being treated like other players. Most likely he has already heard language that could be considered offensive and says he can handle it. With the support that he has received from his Missouri teammates, Sam is hopeful it will transcend to the next level.

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