Giants CB Terrell Thomas: NFL is not ready for an openly gay player
New York Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas is the latest NFL player to admit he would not be comfortable with an openly gay teammate. For starters, Thomas believes the “unwanted attention” Michael Sam would bring could cause tension for teams.
“The attention on him is going to bring attention to the team — unwanted attention, questions that the players, the coaches, the whole organization is going to have to answer — and that’s a lot for one player to carry by himself,” Thomas told ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano in a phone interview Tuesday night.
Personally, I think the “distraction” angle has been overblown. As Donte’ Stallworth explained in his well-reasoned take on the Sam situation, NFL teams have to deal with a number of distractions during the season — most of which they have no time to prepare for. If the organization that drafts Sam makes his sexual preference a non-issue and a subject that won’t be discussed from day one, the media will eventually give up.
Thomas then raised the locker room and shower situation concern.
“I think society is ready for it and America’s ready for it, but I don’t think the NFL is,” he said. “As a player, all you want to know is if he can play. That’s on the field. But in the locker room, it’s different. There’s a lot of talk and joking around, and some guys walk around completely naked all the time, and they might not want to do that anymore. When you add that situation to the mix, I think it’s going to make some people uncomfortable.”
Former Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Raheem Brock said earlier this week that he would not shower with Sam around knowing that he is gay. Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark also expressed concern over how players are supposed to interact with Sam.
“It may make guys feel like they have to change the way they carry themselves and some of the things they say,” Thomas added. “You’re talking about a league where things have been done a certain way for a long time, and now you’re going to expect people to change, and people may not know how to do that the right way.”
What people like Thomas fail to acknowledge is that change is needed. Gay NFL players exist. Former Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk estimated that he played with roughly a dozen gay teammates during his NFL career. Football players have been showering next to gay teammates and interacting with them in the locker room for years, and most of them don’t even know it.
If straight NFL players are acting in a way that would make gay players feel uncomfortable in the work place, perhaps a change in culture is needed. As long as a gay player acts like a professional, there should be no issue with the shower and changing situation. Like any other job, it is part of the work environment that both straight and gay employees need to be respectful of.