Any anonymous executives, scouts and coaches who have claimed professional football locker rooms aren't ready for an openly gay player may need to find some new scapegoats before the 2014 NFL Draft. According to a poll of current NFL players conducted by ESPN.com's NFL Nation and ESPN The Magazine, 44 of 51 players surveyed -- and granted anonymity -- said a teammate's sexual orientation does not matter to them.
The readiness of the NFL to accept an openly gay player has been a hot topic of conversation since former Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam, named a first-team All-American after the 2013 season, publicly came out earlier this month. In interviews with The New York Times and ESPN, the 24-year-old NFL prospect revealed that his teammates knew throughout their 12-2 season.
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Shortly after Sam's announcement, Sports Illustrated reported that some unnamed NFL personnel members believed that coming out would adversely affect his draft stock. In addition to citing the potential media scrutiny that would accompany drafting the NFL's first openly gay player, the reaction of the players in the locker room of the team that drafted Sam was also mentioned as a reason that teams could avoid picking Sam.
"I don't think football is ready for [an openly gay player] just yet," an anonymous NFL player personnel assistant said, reported Pete Thamel and Thayer Evans of Sports Illustrated. "In the coming decade or two, it's going to be acceptable, but at this point in time it's still a man's-man game. To call somebody a [gay slur] is still so commonplace. It'd chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room."