Poll finds 86 percent of NFL players would be OK with gay teammate
An ESPN poll indicated that 86 percent of NFL players surveyed would accept having an openly gay teammate.
The poll was taken in light of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam coming out as a homosexual. Sam was expected to be taken in the May draft but it is not certain how the revelation will affect his draft status.
ESPN surveyed 51 players (nearly the equivalent of an NFL roster) and asked four true-false questions.
Forty-four players (86 percent) indicated that a teammate's sexual orientation did not matter to them, and 39 (76 percent) indicated they would be comfortable showering around a gay teammate.
However, 32 players (less than 63 percent) responded that they had teammates or coaches who used homophobic slurs last season. Also, only 25 of the 51 players (49 percent) indicated that an openly gay player would be comfortable in an NFL locker room; 21 (or 41 percent) said he would not be comfortable, while another five (10 percent) did not answer.
Players appeared to be most concerned about how to relate to a gay teammate or if they needed to behave differently around him.
"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," one starting wide receiver said. "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 told ESPN's "Outside the Lines" on Feb. 9 that his Missouri teammates rallied around him last season after he told them he is gay.
"I'm telling you what: I wouldn't have the strength to do this today if I didn't know how much support they'd given me this past semester," he said.
However, one NFL starting tight end believes Sam will have some troubles in the league.
"There is a little more of a family environment in college -- it was more like having brothers," he said. "In the NFL, you have friends, but it's a more work-oriented environment. I hope guys can be professional and respect who he is and leave his personal life out of it."
Sam was co-SEC defensive player of the year last season. He led the conference with 11 1/2 sacks and 19 tackles for loss.