Progressive cultural change doesn’t always happen quickly, but when it does, it’s a beautiful thing. Take the National Football League, professional football’s bastion and, up until now, a rather conservative place. That may all change now that Alan Gandreau, a kicker from Middle Tennessee State University, has become a viable NFL prospect.
Gendreau, who is the top scorer in his school’s conference, came out at an early age and dated boys in high school. “When you know, you know,” he told OutSports.com.
Gendreau’s ascendance comes on the heels of former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo’s outspoken support of gay marriage. In September 2012, Ayanbadejo was criticized by Maryland politician Emmet C. Burns, who wrote a letter to the Ravens owners asking them to censor Ayanbadejo’s comments. Ayanbadejo, along with Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, has been a vocal proponent of gay rights and believes it’s only a matter of time before there’ll be more openly gay NFL players.
“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,” he told the Baltimore Sun. “Of course, there would be backlash. If they could share the backlash, it would be more positive. It’s cool. It’s exciting. We’re in talks with a few guys who are considering it. 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.”
Here’s an interesting thought: How powerful it is for men like Ayanbadejo and similarly, UFC fighter Rashad Evans, to speak out on behalf of gay marriage when they have, as Evans notes, “nothing to gain personally from supporting this issue.” Straight allies are a powerful tool in a sport that prides itself on outsized masculinity.
For Gendreau, the next few weeks will determine whether he becomes a NFL trailblazer, and, say experts, that’ll hopefully be determined by what happens on the field, not off of it. “His sexual orientation is not going to matter one bit,” said super agent Leigh Steinberg, told OutSports. “The only thing that matters is if he can put that ball between those goal posts. If he can do that, and if he can do it consistently, he’ll have a shot at the NFL.”
Gendreau just hopes he can be an example to other kids. “All those kids playing sports in the South or anywhere else, kids who are afraid to be themselves, I just want to put my arm around them and help them. And if my story can do that, I figure I owe it to them to give it the best ending I can.”