Could the NFL soon have its first openly gay players?

Four active players are reportedly considering coming out together on the same day

Coming out together, says outspoken supporter of gay rights Brendon Ayanbadejo, would "take the pressure off of one guy."
(Image credit: Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

It's been a good few weeks for gay rights advocates. Lawmakers are rushing to announce their newfound support for same-sex marriage, while the Supreme Court has put the issue in the spotlight in weighing two major cases involving marriage equality.

Now, that momentum may carry over to an unlikely institution: The NFL.

Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker and outspoken supporter of gay rights Brendon Ayanbadejo told the Baltimore Sun on Friday that up to four current players were considering a plan to come out on the same day — and possibly soon.

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"I think it will happen sooner than you think," Ayanbadejo said. "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."

His remarks come one week after CBS Sports' Mike Freeman reported that one gay player was "strongly considering" coming out in the next few months. The sources for that report would not say who that player was, but indicated that he feared there would be a lack of acceptance from fans.

Ayanbadejo and others hope that any blowback would be mitigated if four players came out together.

"Of course, there would be backlash," Ayanbadejo said. "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."

Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, the league's most vocal — and at times, most colorful — supporter of gay rights, echoed that sentiment Thursday.

"That would be ideal if a bunch of gay athletes came out at the same time, because then you could spread that attention,'' he said, according to Newsday's Tom Rock. "It wouldn't be 'Hey, there's one guy.' It would be 'Oh, there are five or six guys' and this isn't just an isolated phenomenon. There are gay players in the NFL.''

Ayanbadejo and Kluwe were in New York Thursday, where they were honored by the Straight for Equality Gala for their efforts to promote tolerance in sports.

The NFL is also reportedly taking steps to ensure that if and when gay players come out, they have as much support as possible within the league. NFL Players Association president Domonique Foxworth said last week that the union has been leading an effort to "educate our guys and be ready for this inevitability."

Several former players have come out after retiring, though none have done so while still in the league. Most recently, Kwame Harris, who retired in 2008, came out this year after news broke that he'd been in an altercation with his boyfriend.

"No, not while I was playing," he told CNN when asked if he'd considered revealing his sexual orientation while in the NFL. "I didn't see those two things as being compatible."

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