You won’t find the name Wade Davis on the Jim Thorpe Award trophy or on any Pro Bowl roster, but the former NFL cornerback who had stints with the Titans, Seahawks and Redskins made headlines last month by becoming the fourth ex-NFL player to come out as gay.
Davis, now nine years removed from his playing days, came out publicly to Outsports.com, telling of the challenges that came from being a closeted gay man in the NFL.
“You just want to be one of the guys, and you don’t want to lose that sense of family,” Davis said. “Your biggest fear is that you’ll lose that camaraderie and family. I think about how close I was with [Tennessee Titans teammates] Jevon [Kearse] and Samari [Rolle]. It’s not like they’d like me less, it’s that they have to protect their own brand.”
Davis was forced to keep his secret in order to enhance his chances of making the Titans’ roster. He sometimes had to go to great lengths to conceal his identity after a teammate told him not to associate with another player believed to be bisexual, as it would jeopardize his position on the team.
“I can remember going out that night, going to a strip club, spending probably $1,500 just to make sure ... if they even had a glimmer of a thought that I was gay, that I wasn’t,” Davis said. “I was willing to make it rain just like the rest of them were.”
He had a great shot at making the roster, but suffered a hamstring injury. Instead, Titans sent him to NFL Europe, where he won the World Bowl with the Berlin Thunder. Due to other injuries, his NFL career came to end in 2003 without an appearance in a regular season game.
Davis now works for the Hetrick-Martin Institute, a group that serves lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youths in New York City. He was also called in by the President to aid his 2012 re-election campaign.
Yet, Davis would have faced a different experience coming out as a gay man in the NFL in 2012. A new breed of NFL players have risen up in support of gay players in the NFL.
At the NFLPA Rookie Premiere, Heisman winner Robert Griffin III revealed that he once had a gay teammate on his high school football team and would not care if one of his NFL teammates came out as gay. Running backs Trent Richardson, third pick in the 2012 draft, Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin and the 49er’s LaMichael James also stressed that sexual orientation doesn’t matter to them when it comes to football.
Of current NFL players, Chris Kluwe, punter for the Minnesota Vikings, and Connor Barwin, the linebacker who helped lead a revamped Houston Texans defense to their first playoff appearance, are few of the many players who could be counted in support of the first openly gay NFL player.
“Times are really changing and people are understanding that there’s really no reason to have an issue with [being gay],” Barwin said. “Embrace who people love and how they love.”
Although no current NFL player has ever come out while currently playing the game, the prevailing trend tells us it’s only a matter of time.