Chris Hine didn't plan to out himself publicly in the Chicago Tribune, where he is a sportswriter. But after seeing the homophobic treatment NFL recruit Eli Apple received at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons, Hine knew he had to do something.
So Hine used the platform he he knew best. The writer authored an op-ed titled "NFL Still in the Closet About Anti-Gay Culture" for the Tribune, published online Tuesday, where he admits that he "couldn't help but laugh" when he heard about Apple's treatment during an interview with the Falcons, where coaches asked him, "Do you like men?"
After the fact, Apple, who, says he is not gay, told reporters he'd "been asked a lot of weird questions” in the interview with Falcons staff.
"The Falcons coach, one of the coaches, was like, 'So do you like men?' It was like the first thing he asked me,” Apple recounted to Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia. “It was weird. I was just like, 'no.' He was like, 'if you're going to come to Atlanta, sometimes that's how it is around here, you're going to have to get used to it.' I guess he was joking but they just ask most of these questions to see how you're going to react."
That moment prompted the 29-year-old Tribune writer to reflect on the time he spent agonizing over his sexuality before finally coming to terms with his orientation at the age of 20. "I spent years and a lot of sleepless nights before admitting to myself and others that I was gay," Hine wrote. "It was not an easy process."
Hine argued that the Falcons' homophobic line of questioning in Apple's interview was "disgraceful" and it shows "how far the NFL has to go before its culture embraces an openly gay player. It is still a league where being gay is seen as negative."
Hine remains hopeful that the NFL will eventually embrace an out player, despite the fact that there are currently no openly gay men playing for any NFL team.
"It's already hard enough for a gay athlete to accept himself, and I had hope after Michael Sam came out that a sea change would come over the NFL and it gradually would open its arms to gay players," Hine said. "But that day is still off in the distance."
The only out gay man to ever be drafted — Sam — reacted with confusion to the news about Apple's interview with the Falcons: “Why?” he asked on Twitter.
— Michael Sam (@MichaelSamNFL) March 4, 2016
Although Sam made history by being drafted by the St. Louis Rams in 2014, he never made it to a regular season game. During the NFL scouting combine, Sam faced media speculation about the logistics of showering with teammates and concern over whether any major league team would welcome a gay player.