Ryan O'Callaghan, the retired NFL player who came out as gay this week in an Outsports profile, says that today's NFL is ready for an openly gay player.
The former Patriots and Chiefs lineman made his comments in an appearance on SI Now, expanding on his experience playing football and how he thinks the league has changed since his retirement in 2011.
"Today, I think that an openly gay player—I think it'd work out quite well, honestly," he told SI Now's Maggie Gray. "I think there's enough guys in each locker room to rally around someone, make him feel accepted. As long as they're a good player, a good teammate ... I think guys would welcome them with open arms."
O'Callaghan detailed to Outsports how he hid his sexuality, dealt with an addiction to painkillers and planned to commit suicide after retirement. Susan Wilson, a psychologist who worked with the Chiefs, and Scott Pioli, an executive with the team at the time, helped him change his mind, setting him on a path to recovery.
There are no openly gay male athletes active in the NBA, NHL, MLB or NFL. Former NBA player Jason Collins came out at the end of the 2013 season and played in 22 games the next year with the Brooklyn Nets. LA Galaxy defender Robbie Rogers became the first openly gay player in the MLS in 2013. In 2014, Missouri defensive end Michael Sam made history as the first out player drafted in the NFL, but he never played a regular season game.
Both Wilson and PiolitoldOutsports they have counseled other gay NFL players. O'Callaghan said the positive response he has received should encourage closeted players to come out in the future.
"I think it'd be amazing," he said on SI Now. "Hopefully if there is someone else playing that's thinking about coming out, seeing the response that I've gotten they should really feel comfortable coming out. ... It's not doing anyone good being a high-profile person living a lie. It's not doing anyone good."