In a bombshell development that would rock the NFL to its very foundation, free agent linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo said Thursday that "up to four active players" are in talks to come out as gay during their careers.
"I think it will happen sooner than you think," Ayanbadejo said. "We're in talks with a handful of players who are considering it. There are up to four players being talked to right now, and they're trying to be organized so they can come out on the same day together.
The defender's comments came as he was honored with the Straight for Equality in Sports Award at the fifth-annual PFLAG National Straight for Equality Awards at New York City's Marriott Marquis, along with Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, for advocating same-sex marriage. (Sir Patrick Stewart and author John Irving were also honored.)
"It would make a major splash and take the pressure off one guy. It would be a monumental day if a handful or a few guys come out.
Ayanbadejo, who was cut from the Baltimore Ravens this week, conceded "there would be backlash" against the players, but emphasized the strength in numbers approach.
"If they could share the backlash, it would be more positive. It's cool. It's exciting. We're in talks with a few guys who are considering it," he said.
"The NFL and organizations are already being proactive and open if a player does it, and if something negative happens."
Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, whose son is openly gay, awarded the players. He said in a statement that when individuals like Ayanbadejo and Kluwe "speak out in support of marriage equality, they are contributing to a larger dialogue about full inclusion and equality for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.
"For PFLAG to be honoring them is particularly appropriate ... Chris and Brendon are having a big impact in changing attitudes and making sports welcoming to all.”