Former professional football linebacker and outspoken gay rights advocate Scott Fujita has retired from the NFL after 11 seasons in the league. His announcement came from Peru while visiting Machu Picchu with his friend and former teammate Steve Gleason. The linebacker was drafted into the NFL in 2002 by the Kansas City Chiefs and, most notably, spent four seasons with the New Orleans Saints where played a role in the team's 2009 Super Bowl win. Fujita signed a 1-day contract with the Saints a day before announcing his retirement in order to retire a member of the team.
The 33-year-old Fujita has also been one of the most vocal allies for LGBT inclusion and equality, often leveraging his stardom as a way to bring attention to the cause. Back in October of 2009, during a period when he was playing for an unbeaten Saints squad, Fujita gave an interview supporting the National Equality March in Washington, D.C. In the interview Fujita made it clear why he wanted to lend his name to the march and to the issue of gay rights in the United States:
I think for me it was a cause that I truly believe in. By in large in this country the issue of gay rights and equality should be past the point of debate. Really, there should be no debate anymore. For me, in my small platform as a professional football player, I understand that my time in the spotlight is probably limited. The more times you have to lend your name to a cause you believe in, you should do that.
Then, in March of this year, Fujita wrote a moving essay in The New York Times outlining why he supports LGBT equality and why he should not stay silent on the issue. The former linebacker notes that some people, "think football players like me should just keep our mouths shut and focus on the game. But we’re people first, and football players a distant second…the messages athletes send — including the way they treat others and the words they use — can influence many people, especially children." Fujita's support for marriage equality, he states, is rooted, "in a childhood nurtured by a Christian message of love, compassion and acceptance."
Perhaps the most reveling aspect of the essay comes from his statement that, "conversations about issues like gay marriage take place in locker rooms every day." Fujita makes sure to dispel the notion that football players, football as a sport, and LGBT acceptance do not mix. They can and should co-exist and a time moves on we are seeing more and more that they are. "While there is certainly an element of bravado in our sport, football players are not the meatheads many think we are," states the former Saint.
Scott Fujita has had a very long, productive career in the NFL. The league loses a fantastic player and a wonderful ally for LGBT equality with his retirement.