Wade Davis, a former National Football League (NFL) player in the United States, has publicly spoken about his homosexuality for the first time.
Davis (34) played in the NFL from 2000 to 2004, first with the Tennessee Titans, and later with the Seattle Seahawks and the Washington Redskins. He also won an NFL Europe championship with the Berlin Thunder.
“You just want to be one of the guys, and you don’t want to lose that sense of family,” Davis told OutSports about what stopped him from coming out when he was a sportsman. “Your biggest fear is that you’ll lose that camaraderie and family.”
Davis revealed that when he played in Europe in 2002, he was taken to brothels by his teammates where he paid the women to just sit on the bed and talk to him.
“It was probably the most mentally taxing time of my life. Being there and being in the closet was tough,” he said.
In another interview with SBNation’s Amy Nelson, Davis – who first realised he was gay at the age of 11 – said that a fear of rejection was the overriding factor in staying in the closet.
“I think subconsciously, I understood that being gay – the way I was raised – was wrong, and there was no way that my family, at least in my mind, would accept me. And also that my football family would (not) accept me just because of the perception of being gay meant that you’re less masculine.”
He went on to add: “At never a point (during) my NFL playing career did I take advantage of the privilege that I had to see a man naked. I never even remotely got aroused in the locker room. It’s a place where those guys are your family, and the last thing that you want to do is make anyone in your family feel uncomfortable. It’s not even a thought.”
Davis’ professional sports career came to an end due to injury.
“There was a part of me that was a little relieved because, when I knew football was over, my life would begin,” he said to OutSports. “I had this football life, but I didn’t have another life away from that. Most of the guys had a family and a wife, but I had football and nothing else.”
In 2006, he joined the New York Gay Football League and today Davis works for the Hetrick-Martin Institute, which provides services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning youth, including counselling, support and legal assistance. He is also involved in campaigning for President Obama.
“How many people get to live out their two dreams?” he told OutSports. “I got to play in the NFL, and now I get to change the world.”