Sunday, July 23, 2006

Gay in the NFL

Esera Tuaolo

"I have always known what I was, even before I knew what gay meant. I grew up poor on a banana plantation in Hawaii, the youngest of eight kids. We went to Pentecostal church with my mother, and that's where I learned how to sing. But from a young age, I knew that I was different. I was attracted to men." Esera Tuaolo

"I settled into my stance for the last play of Super Bowl XXXIII. The field glowed under the lights. Flashbulbs popped around the stadium. We, the Atlanta Falcons, faced the Denver Broncos led by their superstar quarterback John Elway. Denver had the ball with a 34-19 lead. I lined up at my usual position, nose guard, across from the Denver center, who was poised to snap the ball to Elway. My knuckles gripped the turf.

The Broncos quarterback took the snap and dropped to his knee to let the clock run out. I touched him first. When the ball carrier is on the ground, someone on the defense must at least touch him so he's ruled down. Since I touched Elway, I was credited with the tackle.

A routine play, but it terrified me. And that was not the first time. That game and that play were televised to one billion people around the globe. Someone could have recognized me and blown my cover. In the past, whenever my image appeared on the screen -- when I made a big play, sang the national anthem -- I lived with the fear that I might be outed. This was January 31, 1999, and at that point I had been playing for eight years in the NFL. Before that, I had played four years of college football. In all that time, not one teammate, coach, or sportswriter knew I was gay.

The National Football League is the number one entertainment in the world, and the Super Bowl is its showcase event. Media from all over -- places like Japan and Lebanon, where they don't even play football -- report on the spectacle. The Super Bowl is the biggest event that happens every year in the United States.

What if one of those billion people watching recognized me as the stranger he had picked up in a gay bar? All he had to do was out me to the press and the story would be all over the headlines: "Gay Man Makes Final Tackle in Super Bowl." My football career would be finished.
No more Super Bowls, no more Sundays playing ball. No more paychecks, no more financial security. No more locker-room banter, no more camaraderie with the guys. I would be banished from the NFL fraternity."


Website: Esera Tuaolo


BostonPobble said...

This makes me sad at the same time it makes me burst with joy that he has finally come out himself.






nancy =) said...

what pobble said =)

i really love this guy...he was in rosie's documentary about the cruise...just such a great guy...