It’s widely been believed that any gay players on the locker rooms of yesteryear remained deeply closeted for fear of being bullied or judged or ostracized. That wasn’t the case universally.
Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith recently told TMZ.com that the Bills of the 1990s had at least one gay player on the team, and that the rest of the team didn’t care.
“We had a gay player in our locker room,” Smith said. “I think it was the mid-to-late ’90s and I think we might have had two but that wasn’t what we were focused on. . . . We were focused on winning games and each and every person that was in that locker room contributing to the goal at hand which was winning football games. None of that other stuff mattered. This was about winning football games and trying to be a good person.”
That’s the way it should be, and that’s hopefully the way it now will be. Ideally, it won’t be a big deal for a player to be openly gay. At some point, hopefully it will be as normal and nonchalant for players to be gay or straight or whatever label applies to whoever they are.
“Judge me by my character and judge me by the way I treat people,” Smith said. “If we show a little bit more love and compassion in the world, this will be a much better place.”
Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib announced that he’s gay a week ago, and the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. More importantly, the story subsided fairly quickly — a sign that maybe the NFL is a lot closer to treating it as no big deal and irrelevant to who the person is, as a football player and beyond.