San Francisco safety Donte Whitner, another strong supporter of gay rights, said a number of factors would have to be lined up perfectly before a gay player could make the call to come out.
‘‘It depends on what team he’s on, what market he’s in and the character of the guys in the locker room,’’ he said. ‘‘The character of the guys in the locker room is important. You can feel a lot more comfortable about coming out if there’s guys in there to back you up.’’
Interestingly enough, considering it was a teammate who stirred up the issue during Super Bowl week, Whitner said the 49ers would probably be one of the most accepting squads.
‘‘I believe there would be no issues with our team,’’ he said. ‘‘I believe San Francisco would probably be the best city to do it in.’’
Niners CEO Jed York said he needs to become a leader on the issue of gay rights. After the Super Bowl, he intends to set up a meeting between Culliver and members of the LGBT community in the Bay area.
‘‘I can’t force anybody to think or to act the way that I want them to,’’ York said. ‘‘But what I can do is give them the opportunity to experience other cultures, other communities.’’
While Ayanbadejo praised the efforts of NFL executives like York, as well as the backing he received from his own team on the gay-marriage issue, the first player to come out will surely face plenty of obstacles.
‘‘I think it would be tough,’’ 49ers receiver Randy Moss said. ‘‘That person would get ridiculed and just beat up verbally. I don’t know if they'd be able to handle it.’’
But Moss said it’s time — past time, really — for everyone in the NFL to acknowledge that gay players have always been part of the league. And, he added, to realize they’re not going to hide their true feelings forever.
‘‘It’s not going anywhere,’’ Moss said. ‘‘We’re all the same people. What is it — a 16th of an inch of our skin color — that separates us from one another? I don’t really look at gays in sports as a problem. We just need to accept it and move on.’’
AP Sports Writers Janie McCauley, Howard Fendrich and Barry Wilner contributed to this report.
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