The NFL met with LGBT groups last weeks as the league attempts to review policies and prepare for a group of players who say they are coming out soon.
The meeting took place at the NFL’s headquarters in New York City and included representatives from three LGBT groups — Athlete Ally, GLAAD, and You Can Play. It was part of a push by the groups to end homophobia in sports, and coincides with reports that several gay NFL players are preparing to come out.
The NFL has never had an openly gay active player, though several have come out after they retired from the league. One of those players, former Tennessee Titan Wade Davis, attended the meeting last week.
Also in attendance was Troy Vincent, NFL senior vice president of player engagement.
“We had a productive meeting in our office,” Vincent told Outsports. “We embraced the opportunity to review with the groups our policies that prohibit discrimination in the workplace. … In addition, we also discussed the ability of all personnel, including players, to express their opinions and feelings. We look forward to continuing the dialogue with these organizations and further educating everyone associated with the NFL about the importance of respect and inclusion in the office, the locker room and on the field.”
After the meeting, the participants expressed optimism in creating a more open and inviting atmosphere for all players.
“Football is the most popular sport in America, but it’s also a sport where many LGBT young people have felt unwelcome or unable to participate — in stands, on sidelines, or on fields across the country,” the groups said in a joint statement provided to The Huffington Post. “Fortunately, that attitude is changing, and the NFL can help make the sport even more inclusive. We look forward to being a resource for the NFL on LGBT issues and hope to be valuable to the league as we all continue to progress.”
Though there has never been an openly gay athlete in any major American sport, there seems to be momentum building toward several to come out. Last week the NHL took a step in that direction when it announced a partnership with You Can Play.
An LGBT advocate within the NHL think that sport will have the first openly gay player.
“I have no doubt that (the NHL) will be first,” Patrick Burke, a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers and co-founder of You Can Play, told USA Today. “Our league is ready for this and our players are ready for this. The culture of the sport, when it comes to LGBT issues, is so far ahead of the other sports that I have no doubt that there will be openly gay athletes in the NHL in the near future.”
The NFL players could come out in the near future as well. Current player Brendon Ayanbadejo, an LGBT advocate, said the gay players contacted him and could be making a joint announcement very soon.