By Michelle Garcia
Originally published on Advocate.com October 23 2012 11:13 AM ET
Former New York Jet and Carolina Panther Kris Jenkins says that now that he's retired, he's tired of forces within the NFL keeping LGBT players closeted and their keeping allies from speaking up.
Jenkins told Outsports in an interview published Monday that the stifling of a pro-LGBT attitude stems partly from the fact that many owners "are old money, and they're nervous about ruffling feathers."
He added, "The whole situation is very frustrating. I'm retired. But playing for 10 years, you’re in a profession where you’re pretty much marched in a straight line. Eat this, do that. There aren’t a lot of straight men who have the courage to speak out and say, hey, from the people I’ve met in the LGBT community, I’ve met some amazing people. I’ve had a humbling awakening, and they should be respected by everybody. Where it becomes an issue for the NFL, it always becomes about preserving the integrity of the game."
Cyd Zeigler of Outsports said he was prompted to interview Jenkins after he made a radio appearance that seemed questionably homophobic. Instead, Zeigler writes, the interview clarified that Jenkins is an LGBT ally.
Jenkins says he suspects he played with a gay teammate during his time in the league and added that when former defensive tackle Esera Tuaolo came out in retirement, many NFL players who worked with Tuaolo in the past did not care whether he was gay. Still, he says it's time for an NFL player to come out.
“Some people are afraid, if somebody comes out as openly gay, that it’s going to be the end of football as we know it," he said. "But football will adapt and grow with it. Football needs to get back to being what it always has been. It’s a gridiron game. It’s about people going out there and playing every down to their maximum potential, being everything they can be. It’s about team chemistry.”