First it was hockey player Sean Avery coming out in support of gay rights. Then the entire San Francisco Giants baseball team made an It Gets Better video. Now the appearance of a shirtless Michael Irvin on the cover of Out Magazine officially brings the equality movement to football. Too bad it's in the form of a guy who hasn't played the game in more than a decade.
The Super Bowl winner, former Dallas Cowboy, and Dancing With the Stars contestant showed up on the gay men's mag to talk about the loss of his gay brother and promote marriage equality. But as Irvin paints a pretty picture of gays in sports, the cynic in me can't help wondering if he's too hopeful.
Said Irvin to Out:
I believe, if a teammate had said he's gay, we would have integrated him and kept moving because of the closeness ... We had a bunch of different characters on that team ... Deion [Sanders] and Emmitt [Smith]. I believe that team would have handled it well.
I want to believe him. I want to think that a gay man would be accepted in a locker room as readily as Neon Deion with all his crazy quirks and antics. But less than a month has passed since NFL great David Tyree was out himself, speaking against marriage equality on behalf of the fear-mongering National Organization for Marriage.
Granted, Tyree wasn't a Dallas Cowboy, but his retirement from the NFL comes a decade later than Irvin's. And he's -- sadly -- a better representative of modern football, a game that includes guys like DeSean Jackson, the Eagles wideout who just last week called someone on a radio call-in show a "gay @ss fag." And let's not forget the outcry just a few years back when a series of science-y sites ran an article with the scandalous headline "Over One-Third of Former American Football Players Had Sexual Relations With Men, Study Claims." Fans and players alike were awfully quick to point out that study actually refers to high school players, guys who never made it to the big time.
I like Michael Irvin's picture of American football. It's encouraging to hear a guy of his stature is coming out with statements like:
If anyone comes out in those top four major sports, I will absolutely support him .... When a guy steps up and says, "This is who I am," I guarantee you I'll give him 100 percent support.
But Michael Irvin isn't playing today. His support means nothing if guys in the locker room aren't stepping up to accept their gay teammates too.
Do you think Irvin is being realistic or overly optimistic?
Image via Out Magazine