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Former Chiefs Player Ryan O'Callaghan: Gay, Bisexual Players Are On Every Football Team

Former NFL player Ryan O'Callaghan, who publicly came out as gay in 2017, says every professional football team has at least one gay or bisexual player on its roster.
"I can promise you there's plenty of closeted NFL players," O'Callaghan told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "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."
Now 36, O'Callaghan played for the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs between 2006 and 2011. Though he credits the NFL for doing "little things" to support the LGBT community, he feels the organization must do more to help current gay players. His upcoming book, "My Life on the Line: How the NFL Damn Near Killed Me and Ended Up Saving My Life," details his struggle with passing as a straight man while playing the sport. He eventually came out publicly in 2017 with the help of the Chief's psychologist, who persuaded him away from suicidal thoughts and addiction to pain killers.
"I just don't think people understand the reality," said O'Callaghan. "We can still get fired for being gay or denied services for being trans. It's going to take a high profile player who's playing currently, coming out, to really make a difference."
 
Following O'Callaghan's exit from the sport, University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam broke barriers by becoming the first openly gay football player to be drafted into the NFL when the St. Louis Rams selected him in the seventh round of the NFL draft. Sam's professional career, however, ended during the preseason roster cutdowns. No openly gay player has served in the NFL, though some have revealed their sexuality after retirement. Reuters provided some further history:
 
Around the world, LGBT+ athletes like India's track star Dutee Chand and U.S. soccer player Megan Rapinoe have raised the profile of LGBT+ athletes and their inherent struggles.
But in major U.S. male sports leagues, progress has been slow.
Soccer player Robbie Rogers became the first openly gay athlete actively playing in U.S. major league sports in 2013, followed later that year by basketball player Jason Collins.
The NFL has yet to see an openly gay player on the field, and fewer than 10 have come out in retirement.
The first was David Kopay, now 77, who opened up about his sexuality in 1975, three years after retiring. Kopay shared the experience of hiding his sexuality from the league and his family in a 1977 best-selling book, "The David Kopay Story."
For the future, O'Callaghan hopes that his story will make it easier for athletes struggling with their sexuality to be open about it.
"You have to explain to (young people), 'You're going to run into some ignorant people, but you've got to have faith that they'll catch up to the rest of the world and understand you are who you are,'" he said. "I tell parents all the time, 'Your words matter. Your kids are listening.'"

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