According to an ESPN poll of NFL players, 86 percent would have no problem with a gay teammate. The sports broadcaster asked 51 players how they felt about gay players on their teams and in their locker rooms, in reaction to NFL draft prospect Michael Sam’s coming out in early February.
While 86 percent said their teammates’ sexual orientation did not matter to them, 76 percent said they would be comfortable showering around a gay teammate.
On the other hand, the survey also showed barriers to gay players in the league. Sixty-three percent said that teammates or coaches had used homophobic slurs in the past season, and only 49 percent said an openly gay player would be comfortable in an NFL locker room.
One anonymous player noted that life in the NFL might be more difficult than college football for a gay player like Sam. “There is a little more of a family environment in college,” he said. “It was more like having brothers. 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.”
If Sam is drafted into the NFL in May, as expected, he will become the first active, openly gay NFL athlete.