Retired National Football League player Ryan O’Callaghan has said he thinks there is “at least one” gay or bisexual player on every NFL team, but that they do not come out for fear of losing sponsorships or even their jobs.
O’Callaghan came out as gay in 2017, and is soon to release a book titled My Life on the Line: How the NFL Damn Near Killed Me and Ended Up Saving My Life in which he talks about being closeted in the NFL.
He told Reuters: “I can promise you there’s plenty of closeted NFL players.
“I think it’s safe to say there’s at least one on every team who is either gay or bisexual. A lot of guys still see it as potentially having a negative impact on their career.”
Between 2006 and 2011, O’Callaghan played for the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs, and he said he regularly hears from other plays who are too scared to come out.
He continued: “I just don’t think people understand the reality. We can still get fired for being gay or denied services for being trans.”
Former NFL player Ryan O’Callaghan thought of taking his own life before he came out.
He said the NFL has done some things to alleviate the fear felt by LGBT+ players, such as sponsoring New York Pride, but that more needs to be done with contract guarantees and representation.
“It’s going to take a high profile player who’s playing currently, coming out, to really make a difference,” he added.
When O’Callaghan first came out, he told Outsports that while he was still closeted he thought of taking his own life after his football career was over.
He said: “My plan was to end my life after football. I thought that would be it, and I could never be an out gay man.
“I’m just glad there were people who pushed me in the right direction, and I could get help.”
He has since started the Ryan O’Callaghan Foundation “to provide scholarships, support and mentorship for LGBTQ+ athletes, students and youth”.