Gay-Rights Backers Await for Their Jackie Robinson

Associated Press
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February 1, 2013
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Brendon Ayanbadejo has heard from many players who applaud his support of gay marriage — some of them teammates, others from the opposing side of the line. Then, just days before the biggest game of the year, he received a striking reminder of the macho attitudes that still prevail in the NFL. San Francisco cornerback Chris Culliver said he wouldn't welcome a gay player on his team. Even though he quickly backtracked, the comments underscored what Ayanbadejo already believed: The league is still a long way from embracing its first openly gay player. "It's going to take a very courageous person to come out," said Ayanbadejo, a backup linebacker and special teams ace for the Baltimore Ravens. Culliver apologized Thursday, maintaining that what he said during an interview with comedian Artie Lange during Super Bowl media day — videotaped and posted on the Internet — were not his true beliefs. "That's not what I feel in my heart," the defensive back said. But Ayanbadejo (EYN'-beh-day-joe), who stirred debate this season by backing a gay-rights amendment in his adopted state of Maryland, estimates that at least half the NFL's players would agree with what Culliver said, at least privately.