New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has a colorful reputation that gets him into hot water with the media, so the stakes were high at last Wednesday’s ESPY awards when he took a moment to answer some questions from OutSports. But rather than create a new controversy with an insensitive remark, he joined the many professional athletes who would welcome a gay teammate into the lockerroom:
OUTSPORTS: How would you feel if one of your teammates on the Patriots came out of the closet this season?
GRONKOWSKI: If that’s how they are, that’s how they are. I mean, we’re teammates so, as long as he’s being a good teammate and being respectful and everything, that’s cool.
Gronkowski couldn’t recall ever playing with a gay teammate — certainly no professional football players have ever come out until after they retire from play — but his comments will help create a more inclusive environment for future players to come out. As openly gay former player Wade Davis remarked, “Just the fact that Gronkowski was willing to be interviewed by you for a gay Web site, it’s powerful to somebody.” For many young people, athletes like Gronkowski with a prominent public profile serve as role models for success and achievement. Hopefully someday soon a gay player can serve in the same capacity.