Former NFL Cornerback Wade Davis publicly announces he is gay during an interview with Outsports.com.
By: A.J. Niles
In the National Football League, masculinity is paramount. Teammates place their bodies and even lives on the line for one another and in this world, being gay is considered a major weakness. This is what former NFL Cornerback Wade Davis was all too familiar with.
Wade, during an interview with Outsports.com, comes out of the closet and expressed how he dealt being gay during his playing career.
[During his first Tennessee Titans training camp,] Davis quickly developed a likable persona on the team: Rookie comic… Veterans gravitated toward him. At night he’d often find himself in Jevon Kearse’s room playing spades with Samari Rolle. Years later, Rolle would invite Davis to his wedding.
The veterans even hazed him differently. While other rookies had various body parts shaved, Davis was forced to navigate a daily shampoo gauntlet as he left the showers, a ritual that sent him back to clean up over and over until the veterans relented.
Davis had won over the locker room, which is the very reason he never uttered a word about his sexual orientation.
“You just want to be one of the guys, and you don’t want to lose that sense of family,” Davis says. “Your biggest fear is that you’ll lose that camaraderie and family. I think about how close I was with Jevon and Samari. It’s not like they’d like me less, it’s that they have to protect their own brand.”
As Davis progressed in his career and was traded to different teams, teammates began to suspect that he might be gay.
In 2002, he returned to NFL Europe for his second stint, this time with the Barcelona Dragons. It was in Barcelona that his sexuality began to push through Davis’ straight façade. The team spent time near Sitges, a town just south of Barcelona known as one of the gayest cities in the world. Virtually every afternoon, a man on a balcony across the street from Davis’ hotel room would sunbathe nude. Davis took notice.
Often the life of the party, Davis would get dragged by his teammates to a local brothel where he’d pay women to spend time sitting on a bed talking. It was worth the $100 to continue the charade in front of his teammates.
After Davis’ NFL career ended, he joined the New York Gay Football League and works for the Hetrick-Martin Institute, an organization that serves the lesbian, bi, gay, transgender and questioning youth.
While it is a great thing that Davis can make a difference to others who may also struggle with coming forward with their sexuality in such a macho sport, it is still clear that it will take more speaking out before more players can feel confident in doing the same.