No active NFL player has ever come out as gay. The world is still waiting on the first -- but instead, the world may receive four all at once.
Up to four NFL players are considering coming out "on the same day together," according to Santa Cruz High graduate Brendon Ayanbadejo, the former Baltimore Ravens linebacker who has become a de-facto lead advocate for LGBT rights.
Ayanbadejo, who won a Super Bowl ring with the Ravens this year, was cut from the team this year. The soon-to-be 37-year-old says that football, and not his relatively-outspoken stance on accepting LGBT people, led to the decision.
The linebacker was criticized by a member of the Maryland state legislature for his support of same-sex marriage and was the subject of a letter to the Ravens demanding he be silenced. Instead, the organization voiced its support.
Gay rights and the NFL have a very uneasy relationship. Only former NFL players, like former 49er lineman Kwame Harris, have come out as gay -- and in Harris's case, his outing was the unintentional result of a court case.
NFL players have also been roundly criticized for what are viewed as homophobic statements. Chris Culliver, a 49ers defensive back, said in the week leading up to the Super Bowl that a gay player wouldn't be welcome in the locker room. An NFL scout reportedly asked a draft hopeful at the annual combine if he "liked girls."
Here's what Ayanbadejo, who lives in Florida with his children and his partner -- his female partner; they're waiting until same-sex marriage is legal to get married -- had to say about the possible mass coming-out.
"I think it will happen sooner than you think," Ayanbadejo told 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.
"Of course, there would be backlash. If they could share the backlash, it would be more positive. It's cool. It's exciting. 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."