The NFL kicks off its 100th season this weekend and that’s a good time to honor the contributions of the men who have been openly gay and bi and played in the league.
That number grew to 13 last week when former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Ryan Russell came out as bisexual. Last year, former Cowboys linebacker Jeff Rohrer came out as gay after marrying his partner. While Russell identifies as bi and is dating a man, the other 12 identify as gay.
To only have 13 out players among the thousands who have played in the NFL (23,000 and counting in a survey done in 2014) is barely a blip and shows the stigma that still surrounds people who play football. Over the years, Outsports has known of a few other players who are gay but have never come out, even when retired. Dave Kopay was the first player to come out, in 1975, three years after retiring after a nine-year career.
Despite their small numbers, these 13 are trailblazers and have inspired many LGBT people in sports and every walk of life, so they are to be applauded.
Here is the list of NFL players who have come out:
Played in a regular season game
Dave Kopay (1964-72): Running back with the 49ers, Lions, Redskins, Saints, and Packers.
Jerry Smith (1965-77): Tight end with the Redskins. The NFL Network produced a documentary on Smith being gay.
Ray McDonald (1967-68): Running back
Roy Simmons (1979-83): Offensive lineman with the Giants and Redskins.
Jeff Rohrer (1982-89): Linebacker with the Dallas Cowboys.
Esera Tuaolo (1991-99: Defensive tackle with the Packers, Vikings, Jaguars, Falcons and Panthers.
Kwame Harris (2003-2008): Offensive lineman with the 49ers and Raiders.
Ryan O’Callaghan (2006-2011): Offensive lineman with the Patriots and Chiefs.
Ryan Russell (2015-17, spent 2018 in Bills camp): Defensive lineman with the Buccaneers and Cowboys.
Attended training camp
Wade Davis (2000-2003): Wide receiver with the Titans, Seahawks and Redskins.
Dorien Bryant (2008): Wide receiver with the Steelers.
Brad Thorson (2011): Offensive lineman with the Cardinals.
Michael Sam (2014): Defensive end with the Rams. Also on the Cowboys practice squad.