The National Football League on Saturday passed on its chance to draft the first openly gay athlete in professional football, while straight ally and gay rights advocate Chris Kluwe found himself pondering his future in the NFL.
Former Middle Tennessee State University placekicker Alan Gendreau, the leading scorer in Sun Belt Conference history, had hoped to make history as the first openly gay professional football player, but was left sidelined at Saturday’s NFL draft, when none of the league’s 30 teams took a chance on him.
Gendreau, 23, was the subject of an extensive profile last week by Outsports.com, putting him in the media spotlight in the days leading up to the draft.
And while rumors persists that a current NFL player, or players, might soon “come out,” others speculated that the first openly gay athlete on a professional U.S. team would be someone like Gendreau, who ascends from the college ranks to the NFL, NBA, NHL or MLB.
But as the clock wound down during the final rounds of the NFL draft, only two kickers were chosen and Gendreau was not one of them.
“Just an FYI. I am NOT a part of the NFL draft. I am training right now with hopes of landing a tryout at a training camp in a couple months!” Gendreau tweeted on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe finds himself in a fight for his roster spot after the team used a fifth-round pick on UCLA’s Jeff Locke, perhaps paving the way for Kluwe’s exit after eight seasons in Minnesota.
In recent years, Kluwe has become an outspoken advocate for marriage equality and gay rights, a thorn in the side of the NFL establishment and a player who never subscribed the mantra “punters should be seen and not heard.”
“I’m hoping I get a chance to compete,” Kluwe said in a phone interview with the Associated Press. “If not, we all get cut eventually and I’ll just have to go and find another job.”
“It’s a shame that in a league with players given multiple second chances after arrests, including felony arrests, that speaking out on human rights has a chance of getting you cut,” Kluwe told NBC Sports on Sunday via text message.
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman insists Kluwe’s political leanings didn’t impact Minnesota’s draft haul.
The following day, Ayanbadejo hinted that his advocacy for marriage equality and LGBT rights may have been one of the reasons he was cut from the team, according to a report by Newsday. Ayanbadejo quickly walked back the comment and said he did not believe his advocacy was a factor.