From David Kopay to Kwame Harris, homosexual NFL players have waited until retirement to come-out. Is football the worse sport for an athlete to come-out in? Roger Goodell holds the key to their freedom but neglects to use it.  

“I don’t do the gay guys man,” San Francisco 49er Chris Culliver tells Artie Lange during media day at Super Bowl XLVII.

“I don’t do that. No, we don’t got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do. Can’t be with that sweet stuff. Nah…can’t be…in the locker room man. Nah.”

After being considered a gay-basher for his comments, Culliver decided to convince the media that they wrongfully judged him and he is not homophobic.

“It’s been very difficult because I’m a little disappointed,” Culliver told Sports Illustrated. “[People think] that I don’t like homosexuals and I don’t support gay communities and things like that, which I do. I have gay relatives, who I talk to, not on a daily basis, but I do and I support them.”

Wait, what? Are my eyes deceiving me? Did this guy say that he is disappointed? Who is he disappointed with, other than himself? Instead of making fans feel bad for accurately interpreting his words, Culliver should be mindful of the old saying, “actions speak louder than words.” If he’s not homophobic, he should prove it. But I strongly doubt if he can prove that he’s not the insensitive homophobic football player we’ve made him out to be.

Does Culliver’s negative opinion about homosexuality reflect those of his teammates as well?

Keep in mind that Culliver is a 49ner, the same group of people that participated in the “It Gets Better” public service announcement that was directed towards LGBT youth.

The same PSA that was pulled from because two 49ners (Ahmad Brooks and Isaac Sopoaga) featured in the announcement denied their involvement; supposedly they didn’t know exactly what the video was about, implying that if they knew that it was about supporting the LGBT community they wouldn’t have been involved. It seems as though Culliver isn’t the only homophobic player in San Fran. Redemption for Culliver and his teammates is to be determined.

The 49ers are not alone in their distaste for homosexuality. After the state of Maryland voted to allow same-sex marriage, some Baltimore Ravens players were in support of the decision while others weren’t. Ravens Linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo was thrilled to hear the wonderful news.

“I’m so stoked,” Ayanbadejo said. “It’s like I woke up and it was Christmas. It’s something I’ve been so passionate about for a long time. Even though it doesn’t affect me directly, it affects a lot of my friends. It affects my family. It affects Ravens’ fans. It affects Marylanders. I’ve worked hard on it very diligently.”

Unfortunately, it was reported by the Baltimore Sun that Ayanbadejo “acknowledged that his stance on the issue was unpopular in the Ravens’ locker room.” His acknowledgement makes one question just how many anti-gay national football players are there?

Being that there are many anti-gay NFL players, is it possible for a football player to regain the respect of their peers if they come-out?

The homophobia and anti-gay comments that brew within the NFL can potentially decrease if decision makers like Roger Goodell implement rules regarding homosexual slander and discrimination, and stop focusing on minor clothing decisions like the type of shocks players wear during games.

The NFL needs an image adjustment, again.

In 2008, in an effort to appear “softer” and to erase the bad-boy image of NFL players, the NFL partnered with the American Cancer Society (ACS). In 2009, the NFL decided to annually help raise money for breast cancer during Breast Cancer Awareness Month; during the month of October NFL players wear pink as a symbol of their support of breast cancer research and cure.

If the NFL can force their athletes to support the cure of a female dominated disease, the NFL can force its athletes to support other historically oppressed groups like members of the LGBT community.

But does Roger Goodell and company actual care about enhancing the image of NFL players, again? Or do they believe that by supporting women their image is squeaky clean?

Ignorant and inconsiderate players like Culliver, Brooks, and Sopoaga will continue to make it difficult for NFL players to reveal their sexuality to their peers, unless someone who has the power to enforce change implements new discrimination rules.

Fortunately, Goodell may be forced to protect the LGBT community as a result of protecting one of his own.

CBS Sports writer Mike Freeman says that, “based on interviews over the past several weeks with current and former players, I’m told that a current gay NFL player is strongly considering coming out publicly within the next few months — and after doing so, the player would attempt to continue his career.”

The anonymous player’s announcement will make him the first active openly gay NFL player, encourage other gay NFL players to come-out, and force Goodell to stop ignoring gay rights.

Goodell is unintentionally forcing NFL players to hide their true identities and he’s supporting the continuous discrimination against members of the LGBT community; the same discrimination that his gay brother, Michael Goodell, faced as a child.

Roger protected Michael from his bullies, but when will he protect you from the bullies you watch on Sundays?