If NFL locker rooms aren't ready for an openly gay player in 2014 then they have seemingly regressed since Troy Vincent retired. A five-time Pro Bowl defensive back who last played in 2006, Vincent told reporters at the NFL owners’ meetings on Wednesday that he played with six teammates who were "openly gay in the locker room" during his career.
“I’m not going to share their names, but in my 15 years, there were six individuals who were at least openly gay in the locker room,” Vincent said, via Hal Habib of the Palm Beach Post. “No problem. From my days in Miami until I ended in Washington, they were just my teammates. Just like my family members. … We ate together, we flew together, they’re roommates in hotel rooms. It was what it was.”
Drafted into the NFL out of Wisconsin by the Dolphins in 1992, Vincent spent the first four seasons of his career in Miami before eight campaigns with the Philadelphia Eagles. He would finish his career with stints with the Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins.
Vincent's comments come with first-team All-American defensive lineman Michael Sam poised to become the first openly gay player in NFL history. Sam told his teammates at the University of Missouri that he was gay before the 2013 season and then came out publicly in February 2014 during interviews with The New York Times and ESPN. He is currently preparing for the 2014 NFL Draft.
“We admire Michael Sam’s honesty & courage," the NFL said in a statement released at the time. "Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in NFL.”
Based off Vincent's comments, his unnamed teammates were out in the locker room but not the media. One of Vincent's contemporaries, four-time Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Bledsoe recently made similar remarks about the acceptance of gay players in NFL locker rooms.
"In talking to guys that are playing now and guys that I played with, it's a far bigger story in the media than it is with any of the guys that are playing," Bledsoe told Marc Lamont Hill of HuffPost Live.
In addition to saying that Sam will "be fine" with whatever team he lands on, Bledsoe went on to say that he would have a problem with anyone unwilling to accept a gay teammate.
"We live in the greatest country ever in the history of the world and it's built on freedom. Right? Freedom of religion, freedom to believe and act how you want," Bledsoe said. "And anybody that doesn't respect people's individual freedoms, those are the people I don't have time for."