Atlanta Falcons’ Mike Johnson Says Majority of NFL Would Accept Openly Gay Player [AUDIO]
One player has commanded the attention of the NFL as the Combine approaches, but not for his accomplishments on the field. Missouri defensive end Michael Sam announced he was gay earlier this week, which means the NFL will spend the off-season preparing for its first season with an openly gay player.
Football players past and present have spoken out through the week to offer congratulations and voice concerns following Sunday’s news. Atlanta Falcons’ offensive lineman Mike Johnson took some time on Tuesday to join Houston & Huber and share his opinion on Sam and the effect he’ll have on NFL teams.
“Is [his sexual preference] going to be a distraction to other players, I think, is the only thing you worry about,” Johnson told hosts Martin Houston and Baron Huber. “You’re not worried about the guy being in the locker room and such, because once the guy goes out and starts making plays, he’s going to be just another teammate. And he’s going to be a guy your root for and a guy you wish nothing but the best.”
The former Alabama All-American thinks that the biggest worry among players is that having Sam on a roster might bring with it added distractions, which is one contribution no veteran wants to have from a rookie.
“I think that most guys in the NFL are just concerned with the amount of media attention, and stuff like that, that he’s going to bring to their city,” Johnson said. “I don’t think guys don’t want a lot of things, especially from a rookie, taking away from team goals and team accomplishments.”
Whether or not the players are ready for it, it seems that the NFL has been preparing for this change from a marketing perspective. Johnson says the league has been testing the gay and lesbian market since last year’s announcement that former NBA player Jason Collins is gay.
Johnson mentioned that the NFL began selling a T-shirt tailored towards Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month last summer, which was challenging for some players.
“The NFL reached out through the [Players Association] and started selling T-shirts and stuff like that with the rainbow emblem. The P.A. kind of wanted to get our views on that,” he said. “It’s difficult to get the shield on anything that you’re passionate about and for [the NFL] to kind of throw it around as a P.R. stunt, we felt like, was difficult. But the NFL is already moving that direction (marketing to the gay and lesbian community) in my opinion.”
Johnson also feels that the players are also ready to embrace diversity as well, saying that the Falcons, like most teams, would welcome Sam into the organization. He said, “I think the team we have here in Atlanta would accept him with open arms, and I think that would be the majority of most NFL teams right now.”
You can listen to the full interview with Mike Johnson here.