Sports
12:42 pm
Tue March 5, 2013

A Shifting Tide For Gay Athletes In Professional Sports?

Originally published on Wed March 6, 2013 7:45 am

Transcript

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Ari Shapiro, in Washington. Neal Conan is away. Last week, two pro football players asked the Supreme Court to support same-sex marriage. It was an unusual moment for the NFL. Not long ago, nobody in pro sports talked publicly about sexual orientation, and now the issue seems to be everywhere.

Last week, recruiters at the NFL Combine asked at least one player whether he, quote, likes girls. Just before the Super Bowl, a 49ers quarterback told an interviewer that if the team has gay players, they should leave. He later apologized for that comment.

Almost every other part of American life has openly gay leaders and celebrities, yet there are now out gay men in major league football, basketball or baseball. This hour we'll explore whether that's likely to change and whether it matters. If you played professional or college sports, and you're gay or knew someone on your team who was, tell us what the experience was like. Our number is 1-800-989-8255. Our email address is talk@npr.org. And you can join the conversation at our website. Go to npr.org, and click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later in the program, a baby is cured of HIV. But first, gay athletes and professional sports. Wade Davis played professional football as a free agent until he left the sport in 2006. In 2012, after years away from the NFL, he announced that he's gay. Wade Davis joins us now from our bureau in New York. Welcome to the program.

WADE DAVIS: Hi Ari, how are you doing today?

SHAPIRO: Good, thanks. So you were out to yourself while you were in the NFL, before you came out publicly once you left. Tell us what the experience of being a closeted player in the NFL was like.

DAVIS: I would say probably the hardest thing was when I was away from the actual football field and my teammates living in my own silence was probably the hardest thing to deal with. When you're on the football field, when you're in the locker room around your friends and your family, it was actually easy because I didn't have to think about the fact that I was gay. I just focused on playing the game of football.

But when I was alone in my own silence, that was probably the hardest part. And then another really tough part, as well, is kind of living the double life. You know, when you're telling people that you have a girlfriend, you know, and all these things, and kind of keeping track of all the actual lies that you tell, that's very, very problematic.

SHAPIRO: Did your teammates know, or did they guess?

DAVIS: No, I don't believe so. I don't believe so.

SHAPIRO: Although you had relationships while you were playing, right?

DAVIS: Yes, I did have a partner during my second year in the NFL and also while I was over in NFL Europe. But what I would do, unfortunately, was given him girls' names and just tell stories about our relationship as if he was a girl.

SHAPIRO: If you had come out while you were in the NFL, how do you think it would have gone? How do you think your team would have responded? How do you think the league would have responded?

DAVIS: I think at the time there were really no conversations about homophobia and gay athletes in sports. So just my honest opinion, I don't think that they would have been ready for it just because there was no conversation about it. I think that for the most parts, my teammates would have been fine. I think that there would have been an issue of how to kind of deal with it.

You know, they're - since it's never been done before, it's an uncharted area. So I think that you have some guys that could care less, you know, as long as you can play, you can play. I think on the other hand there would be certain guys who are uncomfortable. And to be honest with you, I can understand how that could be uncomfortable, but I think the thing that I would have liked was to have an open an honest conversation about what they're feeling and then also have them also listen to how I feel, as well.

SHAPIRO: You know, you mentioned that this has never been done before. That suggests the first person who does come out in the major leagues is going to have a lot of weight on their shoulders. Do you think about, like, who that person is going to have to be?

DAVIS: That person is going to have to be someone who loves themselves. I think one of the biggest reasons why I decided to not come out was that I was going through so much self-hatred and self-loathing that I think the first step for any player who decides to come out, whether he's a top athlete or a free agent like myself, there has to be a lot of self-love that has to happen.

He also has to have an environment around him of friends and family who he knows is going to support him. And I think lastly he's probably going to have to have a couple teammates that he comes out to first that are guaranteed to be his allies within the locker room.

SHAPIRO: You did an interview with the Daily Beast where you talked about some of the traits that this trailblazer is going to have to have, that it can't just be anybody who happens to be gay, who happens to be on a team who decides OK, I'm going to tell people and come out, that this person is going to have so much scrutiny, so much pressure, so much focus, so much attention.

DAVIS: Yes, I think one of the things that we forget is that - at least for myself - is that I didn't have much cultural competency around what it meant to be a gay person. You know, so if I had come out back in 2000, 2004, I probably would have said a lot of things that may not have helped the actual movement. You know, I didn't even really know what the acronym LGBTQ meant back then.

So I think that there has to be a lot of education and understanding about what it means to be a gay person and then also what it means to be a gay athlete because I think that when you're in front of the media, oftentimes you just say the first thing that pops into your head, and that could either hurt or help the actual movement.

So I think that the person has to first of all just do some research about what it means to be a gay person and then also know - and make sure that the language that he uses, the things that he says aren't going to be destructive but help the actual movement.

SHAPIRO: Yeah, you used the acronym LBGTQ. We should say that's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer. I want to bring in another voice here. Jim Buzinski is the co-founder of Outsports.com. It's a website about sports, gay athletes and fans. Jim joins us via Skype from his office in L.A. Thanks for being on the program.

JIM BUZINSKI: Thank you, Ari.

SHAPIRO: So we've been talking a little bit about the NFL. Is the lay of the land there pretty similar to what you see in other major league sports around the country? Give us a sense of the big picture.

BUZINSKI: Well, I think the NFL is pretty much representative of all pro sports. I mean, it's getting so much more attention simply because it's the biggest sport. I mean, the combine is - you know, where they've asked a lot of those players do you like girls and stuff - it's pretty much a glorified job interview, and the media covers that like they don't cover any other sport.

So we're hearing a lot about the NFL simply because it's kind of the big dog, but I think the atmosphere is similar. I think the groundwork's being laid to where I think sports is more ready to accept an openly gay player. But as Wade said, the question would be whether a particular player himself is ready because of all the issues he has to deal with.

SHAPIRO: Yeah, let's take a call. We're going to go to Tom in Canton, Michigan. Hi Tom, go ahead.

TOM: Hi, yeah, I used to work with a Division I football team, and it was actually after a player had graduated and left that he came out. And it was just kind of interesting, I think it's very difficult for a lot of players to emphasize, especially when they're not in that situation, a lot of them claim that they would have been much more understanding if he would have been honest and upfront with them about it, and a lot of them felt somehow betrayed or that, you know, they felt uncomfortable that they had spent all those years, you know, and a lot of male bonding and the camaraderie of playing on, you know, an athletic team with someone that, you know, he wasn't up front with them about that.

And a lot of them are uncomfortable with, you know, what he could have been, you know, thinking about the entire time or anything like that. But, you know, given the fact that there's not that many people in, you know, college and professional athletics, you know, it's just very difficult for a lot of people to, you know, kind of think from that point of view as to, you know, what they would do or how they would handle the situation because you really don't know how people would handle it once you get, you know, everybody sitting in the locker room, people that you spend years with, you know, a lot of time with and, you know, occasionally live with and stuff like that that, you know, they really have no idea, you know, what it - coming from that angle is. So...

SHAPIRO: Sure, well, thanks for the call, Tom. And Wade, did you get a similar reaction when you came out after having left the team? Did any of your former teammates come back to you and say I feel betrayed, I feel like you misled me?

DAVIS: I don't - a lot of them were actually mad in the best types of ways. What they wanted to do was to have had the opportunity to accept me, to show me that they would have been fine with me. But as your caller said, I think it's much easier for people to say that now than when they're not in it.

You know, and my teammates, like, they all ask me some very interesting questions, but I'm just happy that they're OK having the actual conversation around what it means to be an athlete and to also be gay because even though they're not playing anymore, just the conversation alone is very positive.

SHAPIRO: I want to read to you from an op-ed that was written by a former Major League Baseball player, Mark Knudson, who brings a different perspective to the issue. He writes: Individualism and personal agendas might be OK in a normal workplace, but it's not OK in team sports. Any individual with an agenda that's even slightly different from that of the team hurts that cause.

And he later says: We should salute gay athletes who are able to keep their sexual orientation private during their playing days. It's got to be very difficult to do, and yet it's what's best for the team. Jim Buzinski, how do you respond?

BUZINSKI: Well, I never thought that being gay was having an agenda, and I think Mark Knudson, anytime he ever mentioned a wife was having a straight agenda by announcing his heterosexuality to the world. I mean, it really is thinking that is not that it's uncommon, but it's becoming more and more passe. It's one of the things illogical. So just by simply declaring who you are, you're having an agenda. And I think people like Knudson, you know, are the reason that it's still hard for people to come out.

But I think he's becoming more and more a voice in the wilderness, at least among a younger generation of athletes.

SHAPIRO: Well Wade Davis, a football team is not a typical workplace. You're spending your life with each other. You're traveling across the country with each other. You're showering with each other. Should there be a different kind of sensitivity in a workplace like that?

DAVIS: I believe that first of all, that any sports team is a family. It's a community. So you should respect your - anyone within your family for whoever that they are. And I don't believe that there's a certain agenda that someone has by announcing their sexuality. So I'm with Jim on this one, that there is no actual difference.

Yes, we look at athletes as demigods and think things like that, but that's the media's perception and fans' perception. Athletes consider themselves regular people.

SHAPIRO: Jim Buzinski, before we have to go to a break, can you briefly tell us a story of somebody in pro sports, if not baseball, football or basketball, who has come out in perhaps one of the sports that's not as widely followed and not as lucrative and how it's gone over?

BUZINSKI: Boy, you know, I wish I could, but it has never happened in American professional sports. It happened in Australia in professional rugby, which is a huge sport there, in the 1990s. Someone named Ian Roberts came out, and he was a star. And he was totally accepted. But he's pretty much the only example we have of sort of a big-time athlete.

We've had a lot of college athletes come out in other sports who have had great coming-out stories. But these big sports, especially at the pro level, we're still waiting.

SHAPIRO: We're talking with Jim Buzinski of Outsports.com and former NFL player Wade Davis. If you've played professional or collegiate sports, and you're gay, or someone on your team was, tell us about your experience. Call us at 1-800-989-8255. Or send us an email at talk@npr.org. We'll have more in just a minute. I'm Ari Shapiro, and this is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SHAPIRO: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Ari Shapiro. While the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball don't yet have any out gay players, there is a perception at least that gay women in elite-level sports feel a bit more free to talk about their sexual orientation. Just last year, several spoke openly about it. Lori Lindsey from the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team said in an interview that her mother, who's also gay, was her role model and hero.

Mixed martial arts fighter Jessica Aguilar came out as bisexual to Sports Illustrated. And WNBA star Seimone Augustus told the AP she thinks it's easier to come out in her league. But for men, being out is still mostly taboo. So if you played pro or college sports, and you're gay, or you had a teammate who was, tell us what your experience was like. Give us a call. Our number is 1-800-989-8255. Our email address is talk@npr.org.

Our guests Wade Davis and Jim Buzinski are with us. Wade played in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans, the Washington Redskins and the Seattle Seahawks. Jim Buzinski is co-founder of Outsports.com. We got a tweet from somebody noting that when I explained what the acronym LGBTQ stands for, I got it wrong. The Q is not for queer. The Q is for questioning. So with that sorted, let's go to a caller. This is Edward in Tallahassee, Florida. Hi Edward.

EDWARD: Hi, how are you? And thank you for taking my call.

SHAPIRO: Go ahead, sure.

EDWARD: Well, I played at a major Division I-A college here in Tallahassee during the '80s, and in my freshman class we had a quarterback who was gay. He wasn't openly gay at the time, but we all were aware of the fact that he was gay. And I think that many of us had more concern about being nude in front of the female reporters in the locker room than we did with our teammate...

SHAPIRO: With your gay teammate?

EDWARD: Right, and I mean subsequent to us playing, he's out now, and we all are still very close. We return to our spring games and, you know, really coalesce around the program still. But I mean, it's not - it wasn't a real big deal then, and...

SHAPIRO: And that was the 1980s. I mean, that was a long time ago.

EDWARD: Right. A long time ago, and you would think at that time it might have been a little bit more problematic, but it wasn't for us. And I think now the atmosphere is - it might be a little bit more conducive because of the way the society has changed to be more favorable, I think.

SHAPIRO: Interesting, thanks for the call. Good to have your perspective in here. I want to bring in Domonique Foxworth to the conversation, he's president of the NFL Players Association. And he wrote a commentary last week for the Huffington Post titled "It's Time for All Jocks to Embrace Diversity." Domonique joins us from his office in Baltimore. Thanks for being with us.

DOMONIQUE FOXWORTH: Thanks for having me, Ari.

SHAPIRO: So when you say it's time for all jocks to embrace diversity, what does that look like? What do you mean by that?

FOXWORTH: Well, I think that honestly, from what I heard from the caller and from what Wade's been saying and how I feel, I don't know that we're that far off. I think we're a lot closer than people give us credit for. I think just the misconception and the stereotype about jocks being - I'm not saying we're 100 percent enlightened - but being primitive, dumb Neanderthals who can't wrap their brain around working in an environment with someone different to them is just wrong. It's upsetting to me, and it's annoying.

But I'm excited for the opportunity when someone does finally step up. It may not be one person; it may be a great of people. And I'll support them, and I'm 100 percent sure the Players Association will support them, and our players will support them.

SHAPIRO: And yet while there are prominent straight athletes who have become vocal gay rights advocates, recently we had Chris Culliver of the 49ers make an anti-gay comment, which he later apologize for. Is that a teachable moment? I mean what are we as sort of the viewing public and the fans to make of moments like that?

FOXWORTH: Yeah, it's definitely a teachable moment. I think it's an aberration. It's difficult - it frustrates me that people want to paint an entire league with a brush from the comments of one guy. And it's also - knowing Chris, it's not how - it's not who he is. I think he made those comments, and I learned from talking to Cyd, who works in Outsports along with Jim, a term called casual homophobia.

I think that's something that's more of an issue in our locker than anything. It's not that we're not as - our players aren't as accepting. I think they are more tolerant of the language that I would believe, knowing what I know now, is language that is considered intolerant. I don't think it's indicative of how they actually feel.

SHAPIRO: You're saying people might just throw around words because they're used to hearing them thrown around, not thinking about the fact that those words apply to people in a way that is offensive to them.

FOXWORTH: Absolutely, and I'm not trying to justify what they're doing. That's wrong, too, and it's important for us to have the conversation, to continue to talk about this and keep this at the forefront, to move it along, to let people know that that's just as wrong as being aggressively homophobic.

SHAPIRO: Domonique, we on the outside only get a small slice of the picture. What's happening behind the scenes? What are the conversations among the players in the teams like right now?

FOXWORTH: I mean, that's the great thing about our locker room is it's kind of a PC-free zone. Everything's talked about in our locker room. And it's talked about - I've had conversations about the N-word with white players from Iowa, and I've had conversations about politics. It's just - it's somewhere where guys are comfortable saying what's on their mind and getting to the bottom of issues without fearing the repercussions of the PC police.

So it's something that's not new. And as the caller said, and as Wade has said, players have - I've had experience, and I've talked to a number of players who know guys on their teams or play with guys - I know in college there was a guy who was homosexual, and I played in the NFL with guys who I thought could have been, but - and many people on the team thought they could have been, and they did nothing to kind of dissuade those views.

And people played with them just fine, and everything was OK. I don't know, it just frustrates me when people believe - they perpetuate this myth that our players, by and large, are not tolerant.

SHAPIRO: Well, why do you think pro sports has lagged behind other areas of American life in this issue?

FOXWORTH: I think that it's - I think a lot of people like to make the Jackie Robinson comparison, which is dangerous. I think there are obviously some parallels, and these two issues are intertwined, they're both civil rights issues. But it's different because obviously there were no black players before Jackie Robinson in baseball.

But there have been gay players probably in all the leagues probably longer than there have been black players in all the leagues. And it's not something that you can hide and you can put away. So I assume that it would have been easier to get into - or not assume. I know it was easier to get into Major League Baseball as a white player than a black player back in the day when Jackie broke the color barrier.

So I think the same thing is true now. It's easier to get into the NFL and thrive in the NFL if you fit into a mold that people believe you should fit in. So if you stand a chance to make millions of dollars, and the thing that's standing between you doing that and you not is telling someone something that's untrue about your sexuality, I think most people would go ahead and lie and go on and have their career and come out to everyone after they've already had a successful career.

And that's why it's going to take someone who's really strong and really brave, and that's what's really different about this issue, as opposed to the civil rights issue is whoever steps out is going to have made that choice to openly take on this burden and force this country to move forward in that area.

SHAPIRO: All right, that's Domonique Foxworth, who retired from the Baltimore Ravens in 2012. He's finishing his two-year term as president of the NFL Players Association and joined us today from Baltimore. Thanks for being with us.

FOXWORTH: No problem, thanks for having me.

SHAPIRO: Let's take another call now, from Sara(ph) in Boston. Hi Sara, go ahead.

SARA: Hi, I was just calling, offering a female perspective, I guess. I'm not really sure, but...

SHAPIRO: Sure, yeah.

SARA: I played Division III lacrosse and Division III basketball, and there were several of my teammates who were gay, and that was in the mid-'90s. And nobody had an issue with it. It was never really an issue and, you know, just like the guys, we would be in the locker room together getting changed for the games, and nobody thought anything of it. So what?

SHAPIRO: OK so Wade Davis, former NFL player, when you hear a story like that from Sara, why do you think there's such a divide, I mean between the men's world and the women's world in this respect?

DAVIS: Unfortunately I think that if you are a good female athlete, then you're sometimes assumed to be gay, I mean to be a lesbian. And I think that that's unfortunate. I think that that's why there aren't as many vocal straight women supporters of lesbian athletes, because they don't want to be assumed gay. So I think the opposite actually happens.

And unfortunately, I think that comes back to the idea of masculinity and patriarchy, where men don't want to think that a female can identify straight and do something better than an actual man can. So it's just unfortunate that we automatically oftentimes assume that if a woman is a good athlete that she is gay. So I think that that's why it may be a little easier.

SHAPIRO: All right, Sara, thanks for the call.

SARA: Thank you.

SHAPIRO: And let's take another call, from Tom(ph) in Long Island. Hi Tom, Tell us your story.

TOM: Oh hi. Yeah, when I was in college, I was on the swim team. And there were three of us on there that were gay. And yet we really didn't have a big problem, you know...

SHAPIRO: And you were out to your teammates?

TOM: It was known. It was known that we were gay. And there was a few guys on the team that might have had a problem with it. We'd get comments in the locker room, this, that and the other thing, but on the whole we didn't really have a problem. You know, and this was the early '80s.

SHAPIRO: So Jim Buzinski, we're hearing a theme here of people who may be comfortable with their own sexuality, out to their teammates, and yet there is this sort of, you know, pink wall that people seem unable to break through while they're still in major league sports. What's it going to take to finally cross that?

BUZINSKI: I think it's going to take changing attitudes, and I think that's happening with younger people, who are more and more exposed to gay issues. And I wanted to bring up something you talked to Domonique about, Chris Culliver of the 49ers. You asked if it could be a teaching moment. Well, he yesterday was in Los Angeles, and he was at The Trevor Project, which is a gay resource...

SHAPIRO: Gay suicide prevention, yeah.

BUZINSKI: Gay suicide prevention. He tweets out a picture. He says great time at LGBTQ, and he said the Q was for questions. So he got that right.

(LAUGHTER)

SHAPIRO: Sorry. Mea culpa.

BUZINSKI: But I think, to me, it shows he's smiling, and this was a learning moment for him. He's only 22 years old. And what he said was dumb and offensive, but I think it was a good thing actually that it happened at the Super Bowl because it focused attention on this issue. So I guarantee you right now, Chris Culliver would not have a problem with a gay teammate, and it took that education. So I think it's going to take more and more exposure, and the fact that really life is not going to change.

As Wade would know, your teammates are your teammates. All they care about is that you going to perform, and your sexual orientation doesn't matter to them ultimately because the same way their religion doesn't matter to anybody.

SHAPIRO: You know, Wade, Jim raises this point that the guy is 22. We put people on pedestals, give them multimillion-dollar contracts, scrutinize them with the camera, and yet, you know, if any of us are scrutinized at that age, I'm sure all kinds of words would have shown up.

DAVIS: Yeah. I think that that's one of the biggest reasons why you don't have as many straight athletes that are speaking out for - I mean, against homophobia is because they're afraid to say the wrong thing. You know, as Domonique said, that the locker room is a P.C.-free area. You know, when I was in college and, you know, like there's a lot of conversations that if they were had in public, you know, like both parties would have been, you know, like everyone would have been upset with them, but it's the way that players talk, and that they actually learn.

And I actually don't use the word casual homophobia when talking to someone who may use the word sissy because I think anytime you use the word homophobia in talking to someone, they all like to get defensive. So I don't like to ever say someone is a casual homophobe. Like it's just language that's inappropriate...

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

DAVIS: ...that we just have to teach people not to actually use. And one of the callers mentioned the fact that players knew that they had a gay teammate, and I think that that's the difference, is that teammates, you know, they don't care if you're gay, but I think the media and we all want this big announcement. And I think the announcement aspect of it is - can be in some ways problematic where an athlete just wants to play the game.

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

DAVIS: You know, they don't want to be responsible for doing X, Y and Z, but we all want that because we understand the impact that they can have in the world, and that's great. But we have to also understand that these are individuals who have the right to choose whether or not they want to be open about their sexuality.

SHAPIRO: Right. All these years later, we're casually dropping the name Jackie Robinson. Perhaps the person who is gay and wants to be out to their friends and family and team doesn't want to be a Jackie Robinson, you know?

DAVIS: Yeah. And, you know, also, Jackie Robinson kind of had his hand held. You know, he was brought in by someone, you know, everyone on the team was told by Leo that if they didn't want to play with Jackie Robinson that they can actually leave. You know, so there was some handholding that went on there. And unless there's an owner that's going to hold this player's hand and make this big grand statement saying, you know what, if anyone doesn't want to play with this gay player, then they can't be here. So that hasn't happened as well.

SHAPIRO: We're talking about gays in professional sports, and you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. We have a couple of emails here. This one from Joyce who writes: As a woman involved in sports all through childhood, high school and college, there were no gay women until the late 1970s. One year, there were no gay women on my teams, and the next year, there was a majority. She writes: It made no difference to us individually or as a team. It did, however, caused our male counterparts to distance themselves significantly. To me as a straight woman, she says, that was the most unfortunate part.

And then we have this from Kara in Columbus, Ohio, who writes: I have friends, a trans-woman who played on a men's basketball team and a trans-man who left his women's row team. They had to walk away from teams, scholarships and schools in order to transition. I wonder whether either of your guests could talk about the future of transgender involvement in sports. Jim Buzinski of Outsports, any response?

BUZINSKI: Well, we've had an example of transgender in basketball - Kye Allums - who wound up leaving the team. It was problematic. And apparently, there was a mixed martial artist that there's going to be a story on it I think in Sports Illustrated this week I haven't seen yet about a transgender fighter. I think that that's an issue that kind of causes a lot of people just confusion. You know, you have all the issue of gender and, you know, advantages and stuff. So I think it's somewhat different from the gays in sports thing, but I think in some ways, once we get over the gays in sport thing, the next frontier will probably be the transgender issue.

SHAPIRO: Let's go to Grace in Denver, Colorado. Hi, Grace. You're on the air.

GRACE: Hi. I just want to speak from a perspective that I think speaks to the transgender piece. I was a shot-putter at a Division I Big Ten school, and so these two athletes are very well-known. We, you know, sort of the difference between the shot-putters and the sprinters, both of these ladies were - ended up coming out later so they didn't come out while they were on the team but definitely had a feeling that they were different. And now, they live their lives as one - as a lesbian and one is transgender. And I do think it was conscientious. I think it was...

SHAPIRO: It was conscientious, how? Tell me about it.

GRACE: I think, you know, for the throwers, we just, you know, because we're all - we were athletic, and many of us were - had already identified as being lesbian wasn't an issue. But with the sprinters, this sort of idea of beauty and sexiness, I mean, that was - that seemed to be the thing that they gravitated towards. And so to sort of come out and said that they were lesbian would just be - or transgender would just be devastating to the team at that time. And at that time, our transgender teammate who came out later, it was really interesting, 'cause I think we all kind of knew that there was some gender issues going on but - and some sort of - some real biological issues later but...

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

GRACE: ...just really had a hard time. And this particular teammate, you know, had some alcoholism problems and drug problems and ended up, you know, being dismissed from the team for a semester because they did have to go and get some serious help.

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

GRACE: And so I think we all knew that, but it didn't really have the language by which to support either...

SHAPIRO: Right.

GRACE: ...of the two ladies. And now, definitely, it has come full circle, and they're very supportive of our teammates and their careers.

SHAPIRO: That's great. Well, Grace, I want to thank you for your call, and I also want to thank our guests. Wade Davis, a former NFL player, I should say we misspoke earlier, saying he left the sport in 2006. He actually left the sport in 2004. Wade currently works for the Hetrick-Martin Institute in New York and joined us from our bureau in New York. Thanks a lot for being with us.

DAVIS: Thank you for having me.

BUZINSKI: Thank you.

SHAPIRO: And Jim Buzinski is co-founder of Outsports.com, a website about sports, gay athletes and fans. He was with us from his office in Los Angeles. And coming up next, the Mississippi toddler who appears to have been cured of the AIDS virus. NPR's Richard Knox will join us after a short break, so please stay with us. I'm Ari Shapiro. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.