Wade Davis never played a down in an official National Football League game. But more than a decade after his NFL playing career never made it off the ground, the former Weber State defensive back has launched a successful career as a gay former NFL player.
Davis spoke yesterday to NFL coaches and general managers on gay issues at the annual league meeting. Today, he addresses owners.
A report from Cyd Zeigler at OutSports on yesterday’s talk said Davis “sped up the course of the NFL on LGBT issues” in an “incredibly well-received” presentation. “First was to debunk the stereotype that gay athletes are weak,” the report said of the purpose of the address. “Second was to tell them that gay players aren’t snitches–They’re not looking to ‘catch’ teammates being homophobic. They want a football family where they can love, be loved, play their asses off and grow as people. Lastly, Davis pointed out that closeted gay players face a distraction–hiding their true identity–that is keeping them from being the player they could be.”
Michael Sam, a University of Missouri defensive end who compiled 11.5 sacks this past season, announced his homosexuality last month, which serves as a partial impetus for Davis’ talk. Due to poor performances at the NFL Combine and during practices for the Senior Bowl, Sam may experience the NFL much the way Davis experienced it: as a training-camp player. His relatively short stature and lack of athleticism, and inability to play linebacker in a 3-4 system, makes Sam a risky prospect. But the defensive end hopes his game film, which shows his talents as a playmaker in the most powerful conference in college football, overshadows these deficiencies. Davis and others see Sam’s possible arrival in the NFL as a catalyst for change in locker room culture.
Davis serves as the executive director of the You Can Play project, which seeks inclusion of gays and lesbians on athletic fields. After asking several team representatives about Davis addressing their organizations, the reporter called the Davis talk at the league meeting “a great first step toward honest intra-team conversations about gay athletes and homophobia.”