Every NFL Team Has Gay or Bi Players, Says Former Pro Footballer

Ryan O'Callaghan reports regularly hearing from closeted players who fear coming out.

There are "plenty of closeted NFL players" according to former New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Ryan O’Callaghan, who publicly came out as gay in 2017.

O'Callaghan (above, wearing number 68), who played in the NFL from 2006 to 2011, told Reuters he hears from current closeted professional football players on a regular basis.

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KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 24: Robbie Gould #9 of the San Francisco 49ers kicks a field goal during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on August 24, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. The 49eres defeated the Broncos 27-17. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)

"I think it's safe to say there's at least one on every team who is either gay or bisexual," he said. "A lot of guys still see it as potentially having a negative impact on their career."

He thinks most are worried they could lose sponsorships and possibly even their spot on a team. He added that contract guarantees might help, but said he doesn't think anything will really change until a high profile player who is still in the league comes out.

While a handful of individuals have come out after their playing days came to an end, like O'Callaghan, and though Michael Sam became the first openly gay person drafted by an NFL team, the league has yet to have an openly gay or bisexual athlete play a down in a regular season game.

Sam was cut before the start of the regular season and went on to play for the Montreal Alouettes, making him the first openly gay player in the Canadian Football League. He retired in 2015.

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EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 24: New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees (9) looks to pass the ball during the first quarter of the National Football League preseason game between the New Orleans Saints and the New York Jets on August 24, 2019, at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

O'Callaghan struggled with depression, suicidal thoughts, and an addiction to painkillers, which he was helped through by a Chiefs' psychologist. That same psychologist also helped him find the strength to come out to his family.

"I just don't think people understand the reality," he said. "We can still get fired for being gay or denied services for being trans."

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KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 20: Ryan O'Callaghan #75 of the Kansas City Chiefs on the sidelines during a game against the Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium on September 20, 2009 in Kansas City, Missouri. The Raiders defeated the Chiefs 13-10. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

O'Callaghan during his playing days with the Kansas City Chiefs.

His upcoming book, My Life on the Line: How the NFL Damn Near Killed Me and Ended Up Saving My Life, available September 3, outlines his struggles and his journey through them to the self-acceptance he has since been able to discover within himself. Proceeds will go towards supporting the Ryan O'Callaghan Foundation, which he set up to provide scholarships and mentorship to young LGBTQ athletes.

"You have to explain to [them], 'You're going to run into some ignorant people, but you've got to have faith that they'll catch up to the rest of the world and understand you are who you are,'" he said.

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