How Many NFL Athletes Have Come Out As Gay or Bi?

Monday December 20, 2021

The NFL has traditionally been a bastion of conservative politics, with gay or bisexual players often being humiliated or even punished.

Though, as we've seen from the outpouring of support for Carl Nassib from fellow players and his team, the Las Vegas Raiders, we can probably say that times are changing.

So, in the spirit of diversity and inclusion, join us as we take a walk down memory lane and honor the players who have been brave enough to come out as gay or bi.

1. Ryan O'Callaghan

Weighing in at more than 300 pounds and towering over his opponents at 6-foot-7, Ryan O'Callaghan is an absolute beast on the field.

However, life was never easy for the Kansas City Chiefs offensive line tackle. Growing up in a conservative environment, O'Callaghan was exposed to homophobia from a young age. Because of this, he knew that it would be impossible for him to live as an openly gay man.

So, he decided to hide his true identity by giving his all to the world of football. The talented O'Callaghan would dominate games and earn accolades but would be plagued by thoughts of self-loathing and suicide.

Eventually, O'Callaghan admitted to the Chiefs' GM, Scott Pioli, that he was, in fact, gay, and what came next would stun him.

Pioli got emotional, hugged him, and told him that nothing would change. Nowadays, O'Callaghan is in a much better place, and he's even volunteered with some LBGT organizations.

2. Dave Kopay

A running back for the San Francisco 49ers, Dave Kopay made history when he came out as gay in 1975. This would be a meaningful moment as, until then, no other NFL athletes have openly admitted to being homosexual.

Before his announcement, Kopay was believed to be among the top contenders for many coaching positions in the NFL.

Coming out during such a time would drastically affect Kopay's career as he would find himself being snubbed by many of the top professional and college football teams.

He is also known for having a brief affair with Jerry Smith — a Washington Redskins player who would eventually die of complications from AIDS in 1986.

Dave Kopay is widely regarded as the man who opened the door for NFL players looking to come out of the closet. His best-selling book, "The David Kopay Story: An Extraordinary Self-Revelation," would serve as the inspiration for thousands of LGBT individuals worldwide.

3. Kwame Harris

Being a person of colour and a homosexual in the NFL couldn't have been easy for Kwame Harris. The San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle's sexuality was revealed in 2013, when he was arrested for assaulting a former boyfriend.

Despite being an immensely private person, Harris appeared on CNN to give an interview addressing his sexual orientation. Given the NFL's conservative nature, Harris was regarded as a pioneer; by speaking on what many regard to be a taboo topic.

By acknowledging his homosexuality, Harris made history by being the first NFL player to come out as gay while still playing for a team.

While the circumstances of his coming out weren't the most ideal, there is no doubt that it took Harris an enormous amount of courage to do what he did.

And for that, we take our hats off to Kwame Harris.

Closing Thoughts

Playing in a high testosterone, male-dominated environment like the NFL means that gay or bi athletes can sometimes go through a hard time.

Nonetheless, as can be seen by changing attitudes and a more progressive outlook, this doesn't have to be the case. Let's hope that the world of sports opens up and players stop being so afraid of coming out. And if you like football, check out TwinSpires ranking the top 10 greatest linebackers in NFL history here.