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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 5, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 40
NFL warming to LGBT cause
Section One
ALL STORIES
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NFL warming to LGBT cause

While no active players have yet come out, allies are emerging

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Lately, the National Football League has made headlines for more than game stats and Super Bowl commercials. More and more players have come out in support of LGBT equality and same-sex marriage.

Matt Willig, a straight ally who played for several teams during his 1992-2005 career, including the Super Bowl XXXIV champion St. Louis Rams, recently discussed his support for marriage equality and LGBT rights in general with Outsports.

WOULDN'T MATTER TO MOST
Willig said that although no teammate ever came out to him, he strongly suspected one of them was Gay, and he expects there were several others given the percentage of Gay people in the population. 'I would have relished the opportunity to stand up alongside a player who came out while he was playing and say, 'It doesn't change a thing about how I feel about this guy,' he said.

He added, 'Most guys would have 10 Gay guys on their team if it meant winning a Super Bowl. If tomorrow 20 of the top 30 athletes in the NFL came out and said they were Gay, I don't think it would matter a bit to the guys looking to win those rings.'

Willig also described the tension between his Roman Catholic faith and his support for marriage equality - eventually he decided that he could remain in the church and disagree with the hierarchy on this issue.

He's trying to impart his beliefs to his two daughters. 'I am the evolution of middle America,' he said. 'People are struggling with how they grew up and how their parents have seen things. And I wanted to talk about my experiences, and that I evolved into feeling that equality and treating everyone the same is the utmost important thing.'

He posed for the No H8 campaign in June.

CHANGING MINDS IN MINNESOTA
With Minnesota voters weighing whether to ban Gay marriage this fall, Vikings punter Chris Kluwe has emerged as a high-profile LGBT rights champion - and a symbol of changing attitudes toward openly Gay athletes in the sports world.

'I'd like to win some votes against the amendment,' Kluwe told the Associated Press. 'It would permanently change the state constitution. Who are we to say we should decide what our children should do on this subject? If we're not the generation to make Gay marriage legal, why should we prevent our children having a say on the matter?'

Kluwe got a massive new audience for his views after he penned a blistering open letter to a Maryland state lawmaker who criticized another NFL player, Brendon Ayanbadejo of the Baltimore Ravens, for supporting Gay marriage, with the issue also on Maryland's ballot.

'I'm just going to continue to voice my First Amendment rights and continue to support the cause,' Ayanbadejo said. 'There's a lot of work to be done.'

EX-COMMISH COUGHS UP CASH
In the latest example of support from the pro football community, former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue recently donated $100,000 to Marylanders for Marriage Equality, a group defending the state's same-sex marriage law in the upcoming election.

'I think this is the time to view this not as an expense, but as a capital investment in our nation's infrastructure,' said Tagliabue at a recent fundraiser backing Question 6, the referendum on the marriage bill passed by the Maryland legislature and signed by Gov. Martin O'Malley.

Last week, a Gonzalez Research poll found 51% of Marylanders support Question 6, while 43% oppose it. Addressing opposition to marriage equality, Tagliabue said, 'At some point the tide has got to turn. You got to stop the litigation. You got to demonstrate that & the second-guessing at the ballot box is not going to overcome the will of the legislature. At some point you've got to demonstrate that people who support this are going to be re-elected, and not get punished for supporting marriage equality. And I think right now is the time.'

Tagliabue, 71, was commissioner of the NFL from 1989 to 2006. He currently chairs Georgetown University's board of directors.

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