Former NFL player Ryan O’Callaghan comes out as gay
Former New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Ryan O’Callaghan revealed on Tuesday that he is gay.
In a lengthy feature published by Outsports, O’Callaghan detailed how his plan from a young age was to take his own life as soon as his career in football had run its course. The 33-year-old never revealed to any of his teammates that he is gay while he was still playing, and it wasn’t until he saw a team counselor and came out to NFL executive Scott Pioli that he realized suicide wasn’t the only option.
O’Callaghan played six NFL seasons, and he says he cannot remember a single instance where he heard a homophobic slur in the locker room. He did, however, feel extremely out of place and fearful of being outed almost all the time.
“There is so much talk about women in the locker room, even in the NFL,” O’Callaghan explained. “I’d just turn around and ignore it. I figured I couldn’t even talk about it well, like they would see through me if I did.”
Pioli, who had worked as the vice president of player personnel with the Patriots before becoming the general manager of the Chiefs, ended up bringing O’Callaghan with him to Kansas City. He was also one of the first people O’Callaghan came out to after the former Cal star battled a painkiller addiction and took steps toward preparing to kill himself.
When O’Callaghan approached Pioli to inform him he needed to get something off his mind, Pioli thought the lineman had done something “truly terrible.” After O’Callaghan informed Pioli he’s gay, the GM assumed there was more:
“So what’s the problem you wanted to talk me about?” Pioli asked.
O’Callaghan looked at him, bewildered, 27 years of fear, anxiety and self-loathing meeting Pioli’s stare.
“Scott,” O’Callaghan said, “I’m … gay.”
Pioli acknowledged that and asked again if O’Callaghan had done something wrong.
“People like me are supposed to react a certain way, I guess,” Pioli told Outsports. “I wasn’t minimizing what he was telling me, but I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. He built this up and built this up to the point where he said he was nearly suicidal. What Ryan didn’t know is how many gay people I’ve had in my life.”
The entire story is worth reading. While it’s disturbing that O’Callaghan felt suicide was his only option for most of his life, it is encouraging that he received so much support from friends and family after coming out. Hopefully that continues.
Photo via Ryan O’Callaghan on Facebook