Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians is the latest NFL player or coach to speak out on the issue of openly gay players in the league. As reported by FOXSports.com on June 19, Arians believes NFL locker rooms would have no trouble accepting gay players. It is the fans who he feels will create the problems.
“I don’t think the locker room would have any problem with it. The problem would be with the fans. I think especially opposing fans. Some of the things that are said are over the top and out of control that I can imagine what some fans would say to an openly gay player.”
With NFL players such as Chris Kluwe, Brandon Ayanbadejo and Scott Fujita being very active and supportive of gay rights and issues, players do have a support system from other players and organizations who have public stated their acceptance. The NFL, in anticipation of a player coming out, have extended measures to make sure the league and teams are welcoming and present comfortable atmospheres but they can’t control the language that comes from the stands.
The league will try to limit it as much as they can and provide consequences for such behavior.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league is ready to monitor “public reaction” which includes social media and “would assist the player in dealing with any adverse public reaction of any type.”
But the reality is homophobia does exist and fans are going to be vocal and say things to opposing players that they feel will either distract them or hurt them emotionally. A player will have to be strong in those situations and block it out, but within the moment it may be tougher to do. Especially while playing a very emotional sport.