Former NFL Player Wade Davis Comes Out
During his football career, former football star Wade Davis kept the secret of his sexuality to himself. Although he was a cornerback for three major teams, the Tennessee Titans, the Seattle Seahawks and the Washington Redskins, Davis never told his teammates that he was gay.
The athlete, who played football from 2000 to 2004, is now breaking his silence in an interview with Out Sports where the 34 year old discusses his trials and tribulations about being a gay football player.
"You just want to be one of the guys, and you don't want to lose that sense of family," Davis told the website. "Your biggest fear is that you'll lose that camaraderie and family."
While Davis was a rookie, he said he kept his sexual orientation to himself so he could increase his chances of going pro. His chances were in his favor until he hurt his hamstring, which caused him to miss two preseason games. His coach told Davis that if he couldn't play in the team's final preseason game then they couldn't keep him.
He was let go the next day and sent to NFL Europe's Berlin Thunder.
Davis recalled an incident that occurred while he was with the Titans. Teammates told him to stay clear of another player who was rumored to be bisexual and said it could jeopardize his chances of making the team. The athlete said it "was like a lightning bolt that shot through my entire body." He also said that he felt that it was necessary to continue to project a macho image.
"I can remember going out that night, going to a strip club, spending probably $1,500 just to make sure ... if they even had a glimmer of thought that I was gay, that I wasn't," Davis said. "I was willing to make it rain just like the rest of them were."
He said teammates would drag him to a brothel where he'd pay woman $100 to do nothing but sit on a bed and talk.
"It was probably the most mentally taxing time of my life," Davis says. "Being there and being in the closet was tough."
In 2003, while with the Redskins, Davis dislocated his kneecap, which put the final nail in the coffin for his NFL dream.
"There was a part of me that was a little relieved because, when I knew football was over, my life would begin," Davis said. "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."
Now that his football career was behind him, Davis decided to embrace his sexuality and the LGBT community. He first joined the New York Gay Football League.
"The hardest thing I found when I first joined the gay football league was being my competitive self but not alienating the guys I wanted to become friends with," Davis said. "It took me a while to embrace the role of mentor in the league because I was so focused on winning. After losing in [Gay Bowl X], I started taking my time to see life through other people's eyes. I wanted the game of football to be tangible for everyone."
Davis became close with teammate Jayce Jones. Davis taught Jones, a certified accountant, a strong work ethic and not to give up.
"Wade helped me refocus on the minimal things in my life, as far as practice makes perfect," Jones said. "I didn't care about football anymore. When I played, I half-assed it all the time. He helped me realize if you half-ass things like this, you're gonna half-ass it in the rest of your life as well. And if you keep living life at a minimal level, you'll be looking back 25 years from now wondering, 'what if?'"
After the eye-opening experience of helping his friend, Davis started his job at Hetrick-Martin Institute, a New York City-based organization that helps LGBT youth. He is now the organization's assistant director of job readiness.
"If I didn't play in the New York gay football league, I probably wouldn't be doing this right now," he said.
"It's the first job since football that I wake up excited for work," Davis said. "For these kids, the question isn't whether they are shooting a basketball well, it's whether they have a place to sleep tonight, whether they've eaten today. Sports is less significant than what I see these youth go through every day."
Homosexuality in sports, especially football, is rarely discussed - at least in a positive light. In April a Nebraska assistant football coach testified against an anti-decimation ordinance that would protect members of the LGBT community, the Associated Press reported.
Ron Brown said that the Bible does not condone homosexuality, therefore he is against the ordinance.
"The question I have for you all is, like Pontius Pilate, what are you going to do with Jesus?" Brown asked. "Ultimately, if you don't have a relationship with him, and you don't really have a Bible-believing mentality, really, anything goes. ... At the end of the day it matters what God thinks most."
There has yet to be a football player to come out during his career and only a few have announced that they were gay after retiring. But that hasn't stopped other athletes from coming out. In May Josh Dixon, gymnast and Olympic hopeful, announced that he's gay.
The gymnast told Out Sports that most people did not have a problem with his sexual orientation.
"Most people responded with 'Oh, that's cool,'" he said.
Last year British cricket star Steven Davis came out and became the first professional cricket player to reveal that he is gay before retirement. Additionally, in 2009 Wales rugby star Gareth Thomas made headlines when he announced that he is gay.
Watch the interview with Davis and SB Nation's Amy K. Nelson: