TAMPA, 11/12/00, Tampa Bay defensive end Chidi Ahanotu #72 celebrates after recovering a fumble during fourth quarter action against Green Bay in Tampa. (Orlando Sentinel)
Openly gay players in the NFL have always been a most controversial subject. We remember Chris Culliver's anti-gay comments during the build-up to the most recent Super Bowl. San Francisco's defensive back stated that he has no desire to have a gay teammate. He later apologized for the remarks he made, but he is certainly not alone with his views. Gay players would have to fear a backlash from their teammates, opponents and fans.
Bruce Arians, head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, recently told FoxSports.com that the real issue would be with the fans, especially opposing fans.
Wasn't it female soccer star Megan Rapinoe who revealed at the Olympic Games in London that she has been in a committed same-sex relationship with a soccer player from Australia for the past three years? Nobody seemed to be shocked. In fact, everybody appeared to be accepting of her sexuality and responded as if it is the most normal thing in the world.
In a time of political correctness, discrimination, be it on the ground of sex, age, race or religion, is unacceptable and often illegal. Why is homophobia still present in sports today and causes such a stir in the NFL?
I asked Chidi Ahanotu, former defensive end with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, about his views on openly gay players in the NFL and why this seems to be such an issue among male athletes.
1) In your opinion, what would be the response (teammates, opponents, fans) if an NFL player came out to be openly gay?
Opposing players would verbally abuse and berate that openly gay player. Plain and simple. It is not a politically correct world out on the gridiron. Quite the contrary. In fact, opposing teams' players would go out of their way to take that openly gay player OUT. And I do mean with extra hard hits, illegal hits and head-to-head hits. No, not because of gay bashing but simply for the reason that the perceived meek or weak are preyed upon in the NFL. Opposing team fans would do the same to that openly gay player [abuse and berate him]. Teammates of that openly gay player would tow the company line and be politically correct.
2) How would you have felt if this had happened during your active career (teammate/opponent)?
If a player had been openly gay during my career I'd have reacted the same as I outlined in my answer of #1.
3) If a female athlete is openly gay or bisexual nobody seems to mind. In your opinion, why is it an issue if a male athlete is gay?
People don't want to hear it but people view male gay sex acts as a more invasive and disturbing act simply from the anatomy of the act of penetration of sex body parts. Women gay sex acts contain no penetration and thus folks end up cueing females gay sex acts as [something sensual]. Therefore the male gay athlete is viewed in bad light by the general populace because it isn't manly to perform that type of sexual act. Male and females are held to different standards. Males are expected to be manly. Females are not expected to be anything really. They can run the gamut of personalities and behaviors and no one seems to mind. This view of mine is expectedly controversial but I do believe therein lies the root of the public perception of the differing views of the male and female pro athlete.