David Snell knew only two other black gay people while growing up in Madison, N.J., an upper-middle-class town with white-picket fences, a mostly Irish and Italian population. One was a 13-year-old boy whom Snell encountered at his small Baptist church.
Wade Davis, a former cornerback, spoke about being gay in the N.F.L. for the first time last week.
At Sunday school, the boy started crying. Snell said that he could not remember how the topic arose, but that the boy started to say that he was gay, that he had tried to be straight but could not.
Snell did remember the pastor’s response: “We don’t condone that here. You should leave.”
“So he ran off crying, and that was the beginning of me knowing not to open my mouth,” Snell said.
Snell stayed quiet, even after his first crush on a boy in the fifth grade, and chose not to reveal that he was gay until his college football career had ended. His experience, similar to that of Wade Davis, who spoke about being gay in the macho N.F.L. for the first time last week with Outsports.com, shows how daunting it can be to balance life as a black gay football player.