Aaron Rodgers, one of the top players in the NFL, has said that American footballers don’t come out because they’re rightly afraid of losing their jobs.
The 33-year-old Green Bay Packers quarterback suggested players would rather stay quiet than face discrimination.
No gay player has ever come out while playing in the NFL. The same has been true for the Premier League, since Justin Fashanu came out in 1990 and died by suicide eight years later.
Rodgers, who was awarded the Most Valuable Player honour after winning the 2011 Super Bowl, told ESPN there was work to do before this could change.
“There’s [still] a fear of job security,” he said.
“If you have a differing opinion, differing sexual orientation, they can get rid of you.”
He explained that in a short, lucrative career such as football, sometimes the easiest option was to say nothing, rather than risking your whole future.
After all, coaches can just say a player wasn’t good enough.
“So is it better just to be quiet and not ever say anything,” he asked, “and not risk getting cut, with people saying: ‘Well, it’s because you can’t play’?”
Rodgers also opened up about his friend Ryan O’Callaghan, a retired lineman who came out earlier this year after playing for the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs.
O’Callaghan said he “could almost certainly say I’d be dead” if he hadn’t met a clinical psychologist and talked through his issues with her, but that “life’s great now”.
Rodgers said his decision to come out showed that football was “moving in the right direction”.
The quarterback was “incredibly proud” of his former rival.
“I know he had a lot of fear about it, and how he would be accepted, and how people would change around him.”
And Rodgers said he thought that society was “finally moving in the right direction, as far as treating all people with respect and love and acceptance and appreciation.
This also held true in NFL locker rooms, he added.
“I think the sport is getting closer.”
This can be seen in the fact that there are a record-breaking number of gay players in college football, as the season prepares for kick-off.
Scott Frantz, My-King Johnson, Xavier Colvin, Kyle Kurdziolek, Darrion McAlister and Wyatt Pertuset are the six college footballers playing across the country – from Arizona to Illinois – who are out as gay.