Kwame Harris opens up about being gay in the NFL

Published On March 30, 2013 | By Jill Saftel

Friday morning, former San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle Kwame Harris joined CNN Newsroom, but it wasn’t to analyze any offseason deals or really talk football. Instead, Harris spoke of his time as a homosexual player in the closet during his tenure as an NFL-er.

“You want to escape the despair and turmoil and your mind goes to dark places,” Harris said, via USA Today. “I’m happy today, and I’m glad they were just ideas and I didn’t act on any of them.”

Some of our professional sports have made great strides against hate based on sexuality. The NHL in particular has proven itself to be widely open and inclusive, made possible in part by many partnerships with the You Can Play Project. And while each sport has its supporters when it comes to players’ sexuality, some have a long way to go. The NFL is probably at the top of that list.

“The cost was great in asking me to not speak candidly or be able to be open about myself in a complete manner,” Harris said. “If I could have done it differently, I would have hoped I found the strength [to come out].”

When Harris was publicly outed before the Super Bowl following an altercation with a former boyfriend, it didn’t bode well for a current 49er. Quarterback Chris Culliver had some choice words when it came to his own feelings regarding gay teammates in the locker room.

“I don’t do the gay guys man,” Culliver said. “I don’t do that. No, we don’t got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do. Can’t be with that sweet stuff. Nah…can’t be…in the locker room man. Nah.”

Culliver did apologize for his comments and visited an LGBTQ support group, but the damage was done in terms of giving us a glimpse of how Culliver, and surely many of his NFL comrades, feel about homosexuality in professional sports.

But people like Harris are making a difference. He said he hopes his experience can set an example for others in similar situations, and you’ve got to think his courage will pay off.

“I want people, whether gay athletes, athletes still in the closet, or youths who are not sure what their sexuality is to know those are common feelings,” Harris said. “Don’t feel alone in having them.”

Anyone interested in equality in sports should check out You Can Play. From rapper Macklemore to Zdeno Chara and colleges around the country, athletes everywhere are making strides on this front.

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About The Author

Jill studies journalism at Northeastern University, covers Hockey East for College Hockey News and is the sports editor for The Huntington News. You can follow her on Twitter at @jillsaftel, just don't ask her to choose between hockey and baseball, it's impossible.