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Vikings' Kluwe says it's matter of time before current NFL player admits he's gay

| Monday, April 15, 2013, 11:21 p.m.

SLIPPERY ROCK — Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe said there are NFL players who are known to be gay, but no one in the league worries about them. Other players, he said, are in the closet.

What appears to be increasingly likely is the door to that long-shuttered closet might soon open, and for the first time, a major professional sport athlete acknowledges he's gay while his career is ongoing.

Kluwe said Monday night that it “might be this year, it might be next year, it might be five years” but a current NFL player soon will say he's gay. Some of those players are already known to their teammates, he said.

“I don't know of anyone personally, but I have heard from guys that have played with (gay) players,” Kluwe said. “Yeah, guys knew, but they didn't say anything.”

Kluwe, who's married with two children but is a strong advocate of gay rights, and former NFL player Esera Tuaolo, who came out as being gay in 2003 after his nine-season career as a defensive lineman ended, won't be surprised when a player says he's gay.

To them, it's regrettable that four-letter words are thrown about so easily in NFL locker rooms, but one three-letter word — gay — remains a mostly unspoken-about topic.

At a symposium titled “Tackling Homophobia: NFL Voices Inspiring Change” attended by about 400 at Slippery Rock University, Tuaolo said he wouldn't have envisioned while playing that an active player such as Kluwe — much less a straight one — would be so supportive of gay rights.

Kluwe and former Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo have written to the Supreme Court urging that gay marriage laws be upheld. Ayanbadejo recently said he believed four current NFL players were closing to coming out, although he later backed off that statement.

“We had it with slavery, segregation and suffrage,” Kluwe said of opposing homophobia. “It's the same stupid fight. ... It's about standing up for what's right. It's about treating people like people, not like objects.”

Kluwe's wife worried her husband might lose his job because of his gay-rights advocacy, but he feels so strongly about the issue, he decided it was worth the risk.

Tuaolo cried while relating how he couldn't hug and kiss his gay partner following the 1998 Super Bowl at the same time his teammates were hugging their wives and children.

“I would do it now,” he said, sobbing as many students clapped in support.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at arobinson@tribweb.com or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

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