The story of the 1993 Houston Oilers, a made-for-TV team if there ever was one, recently was a subject of the NFL Network's popular series "A Football Life". But while that program dove into the issues surrounding that talented but unsettled team, it apparently failed to capture the whole story.
The Houston Chronicle reported Thursday that "at least two key members" of that '93 Oilers team were gay. "Not only did the team know about the situation," the Chronicle's Brian T. Smith wrote, "but players accepted their gay teammates and did not outcast them."
Bubba McDowell, a member of the Oilers from 1989-94, told the Chronicle: "Everybody knew certain guys (were gay). Everybody speculated and people used to see these two guys come in by themselves. They’d leave at lunchtime and then come back."
McDowell added that the situation was "no big deal".
Linebacker Lamar Lathon, an Oiler from '90-94 and then a Pro Bowler for Carolina, said that the sexual orientation of players in the locker room was not one of the myriad issues facing that infamous 1993 Houston team.
"Listen, those guys that we’re talking about were unbelievable teammates. And if you wanted to go to war with someone, you would get those guys first. Because I have never seen tougher guys than those guys,” said Pro Bowl linebacker Lamar Lathon, who starred at the University of Houston. “And everybody in the locker room, the consensus knew or had an idea that things were not exactly right. But guess what? When they strapped the pads on and got on the field, man, we were going to war with these guys because they were unbelievable.”
The NFL has never had an openly gay player among its active ranks. Back in April, former Baltimore Raven Brandon Ayanbadejo, a vocal advocate for gay rights and same-sex marriage, said that up to four current players were "trying to be organized so they can come out on the same day together" and that something of that nature "will happen sooner than you think".
One day later, during an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, Ayanbadejo tempered that timeline: "What we want to facilitate is getting them all together so they can lean on each other, so they can have a support group. And potentially it's possible, it's fathomable, that they could possibly do something together and break a story together, and one of them had voiced that he would like to break his story with somebody else, and not do it alone, and that's all I'm saying."
The NBA's Jason Collins made history in the May 6, 2013 issue of Sports Illustrated, becoming the first openly gay athlete in the NBA.
"I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay," Collins wrote.
"I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, "I'm different." If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand."
However, Collins has remained a free agent since his contract expired at the end of the 2012-13 season.
Former Middle Tennessee State kicker Alan Gendreau, who came out when he was 15, expressed his desire to kick in the NFL this past offseason though such an opportunity has not yet presented itself. A more high-profile situation arose surrounding Kerry Rhodes, who vehemently denied on multiple occasions rumors that he was gay, which arose after his alleged ex, Russell Simpson, released photos of himself with Rhodes. Rhodes, after an impressive 2012 season, went unsigned through the entire 2013 campaign.