Freeman reports now, with the benefit of hindsight, that, in truth, about two or three of active players were orchestrating announcements with different teams on different sides of the country without knowledge of each other. One player, allegedly an active free agent who remains unsigned today, had a deal in place with one NFL team to handle a coming out announcement in June, a month before training camp. That seemed like plenty of time for the press and league to digest the news, suffer some ugly backlash, and then go through the backlash to the backlash before players even run drills. Another player, a still-unsigned defensive back, nearly had a deal with an AFC team. But both fell apart at the last minute:
According to the team, the potential deal collapsed when the [free-agent defensive back] wanted too much money. If that was the case—and there is doubt about that among gay-rights advocates—it stands apart from everything else league insiders are saying about an NFL which they know includes many gay players and not a single one who will publicly acknowledge he's gay.
The first player, the one who expected to sign in June, heard in mid-to-late May from the interested team that it would no longer be signing him, officials from other teams told Bleacher Report. The player was told the reason why was fear of intense media coverage.
For the other players ready to come out, their deals and decisions to stay closeted came out of fear for what they could lose — their friends, their job and potentially the sport they love so much:
The answer was the same—fear. If they come out before signing, they won't get signed. While the players want to help push change, they also want to play football. Some will point to how Collins remains unemployed post-announcement.
Some point to the recent Miami Dolphins bullying scandal as a sign the league isn't ready for an out gay player. No one knows what it will take, exactly, for the biggest sports league to accept something the Supreme Court is already so over. The best guess, many think: a college prospect already out of the closet with undeniable talent. "Players, in general, don't care what other players do in the bedroom," Arizona kicker Jay Feely told Freeman. "No one cares. The only thing they care about is winning games (and getting paid). That's the honest truth." A hail mary might help.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.