Last we checked in there were murmurs (and reactions) about a single gay player in the National Football League who was getting ready to come out of the closet. But according to Brendon Ayanbadejo, the outspoken gay rights advocate and now former Baltimore Raven, there are at least three more. The Baltimore Sun's Aaron Wilson sort of buries the lead in story today about the Ravens cutting Ayanbadejo late this week — that there is a vague plan in place for as many as four players to announce publicly that they are gay, and on the same day. Quoth Ayanbadejo, in the Sun:
We're in talks with a handful of players who are considering it. There are up to four players being talked to right now and they're trying to be organized so they can come out on the same day together. It would make a major splash and take the pressure off one guy. It would be a monumental day if a handful or a few guys come out.
Now four is a lot compared to the one mystery player floated by Mike Freeman of CBS late last month: "I'm told that a current gay NFL player is strongly considering coming out publicly within the next few months — and after doing so, the player would attempt to continue his career."
Mike Florio, the NBC football analyst who first floated word that NFL general managers wanted to know if Mant Te'o was gay, responded to Freeman's scoop by suggesting that "the player may not currently have a team, or that the player believes he may not make it onto the final 53-man roster of the team for which he currently plays."
That's a little ridiculous — Ayanbadejo has been an important and outspoken voice despite apparently not being good enough for the Super Bowl champs. But four players could mean a strong message, and maybe a prominent player as a face for what could be an important moment for a league that's set a troubling example for gay rights of late. Still, four players is a small fraction of all NFL athletes — 32 teams, with 53 players on each makes for about four out of 1,696, or 0.2 percent — and nobody's going to "guess" the fearless foursome before the potential coming out party before the new season begins in September. (Four, coincidentally, is the same number of remaining Democratic Senators who still haven't come out for gay marriage).
"Of course, there would be backlash," Ayanbadejo continues, stating the possible downside of this would-be landmark event. "If they could share the backlash, it would be more positive. It's cool. It's exciting. .. The NFL and organizations are already being proactive and open if a player does it and if something negative happens. We'll see what happens."
Update, Saturday: Ayanbadejo may have gotten a little ahead of himself, he tells Anderson Cooper.