NFL fans booed Andrew Luck for retiring. Will they cheer for one of us?

Andrew Luck, 29, one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks, made a life-changing decision Saturday that brought Indianapolis Colts fans to their feet… to boo him off the field.

Luck hadn’t played so far this preseason due to a lower leg injury.

As Christian D’Andrea wrote for our partner SB Nation, “ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Saturday night that Luck had informed the Colts he will retire rather than play this season. The 29-year-old leaves behind a seven-year NFL career that saw him named to the Pro Bowl four times. He led Indianapolis to the playoffs in all four of the seasons in which he played a full 16-game slate.”

The Athletic’s Zak Keefer tweeted Luck’s other record of note, one of several painful injuries.

ESPN reported on Sunday that according to sources the Colts reached a financial agreement with Luck so that they will not take back any of the money they are owed, which could have amounted to close to $25 million.

After learning the news of his retirement during Saturday night’s preseason game, many fans booed Luck as he walked off the field at its conclusion. Turn the sound up and hit play.

The hecklers were heard, not just on social media, but by Luck himself. He told reporters at a news conference afterward, getting booed as he walked off the field on his last day as an NFL player, “It hurt.”

At times Luck got emotional, thanking his parents, his wife, his teammates. He told reporters, the decision of whether to heal his body or to continue to play football was one that he ultimately said, “I choose me.”

Those words, “I choose me,” echoed in my mind. It’s why I came out, and I would think a lot of people who are LGBTQ thought something along those lines. Unfortunately, the people who booed, and whined, also chose themselves, over Luck. Miami Herald sportswriter and radio personality sarcastically summed up their feelings in a tweet.

A lot of folks took to Twitter to denounce the hecklers, calling their treatment of Luck embarrassing for Indianapolis, and for football. Donté Stallworth responded best of all.

And then there was the reaction of the planet’s most egotistical former football player with a dark past: O.J. Simpson, a video which has to be seen and heard to be believed. The sad part? I think he speaks for a lot of so-called “fans” who were upset that Luck ruined their Fantasy Football selections.

Why is Luck’s decision of consequence to LGBTQ football fans? We summed it up last night in a tweet of a story in Outsports from 2013, quoting Luck on the subject of a player potentially coming out: “If it makes them happy and it makes their life easier, than I think they should do it.”

Andrew Luck is straight. And we asked members of our team (who just happen to be LGBTQ) and our readers to weigh in. Just some of the reactions:

Can we draw any conclusions from how Luck was treated for putting himself first, on how those same fans would treat an NFL player coming out as gay or bisexual? At least two of our followers weighed in, saying, no way.

I get it, Rich and Brian. And when I told Brian, we wouldn’t lump him and all fans in with the assholes who booed, he had this keen observation to share.

It does seem like a stretch to think that fans who said they didn’t care if Michael Sam was gay, so long as he could play football and play it well, would boo any NFL player who owned their truth.

It’s 2019, and except for a fervent, vocal minority of Americans, the vast majority of those polled earlier this year support same-sex marriage, as well as relationships between consenting adults and equal rights to employment.

So, of course, we should expect the next NFL player who comes out as gay or bi (or some other sexual or gender identity) to be well-received, accepted, even cheered.

And yet… nobody has. Why not?

I suspect it’s not because they’d be booed, or that those closest to them would reject them.

It’s because of the fear that they might.

It’s because of the fear that their teammates, their coaches and the team’s media connections, and yes, those same fans who booed, might not see coming out as “the right thing to do.”

Personally, I don’t think that they would based on 20 years of Outsports reporting on closeted athletes coming out and saying, “my worst fears did not materialize.” “I was accepted.” “I am loved for who I am.”

But fear is powerful. There’s a reason a U.S. president once told us it’s the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself. It protects us from making choices that could hurt us. But it can also be cripping, and rob us of opportunities and stop us from achieving our dreams.

My message to that closeted player who watched the video of fans booing and said, “THIS is why I don’t come out:” is simple: they don’t speak for me. I will root for you even more when you own your truth, because, like Andrew Luck, you choose to come out for you. Not for me or the community or the team or the fans or the sport or for history.

Don’t be afraid to be you. Say it loud, say it proud: “I choose me.”

My best wishes to Andrew Luck. Screw the haters.


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