Former NFL star Troy Vincent is hoping to make a significant impact as the NFL's recently hired executive vice president of football operations and has made one of his main goals to improve the atmosphere across NFL locker rooms.
On Wednesday, Vincent talked with reporters at the conclusion of the NFL owners meeting in Orlando, Fla., and made headlines when he acknowledged that he played with six openly gay players over the course of his professional career, per The Palm Beach Post's Hal Habib:
I’m not going to share their names, but in my 15 years, there were six individuals who were at least openly gay in the locker room. No problem. From my days in Miami until I ended in Washington, they were just my teammates. Just like my family members...We ate together, we flew together, they’re roommates in hotel rooms. It was what it was.
The 43-year-old admits that his teammates' sexuality wasn't an issue for him, but that's not to say the environment inside those locker rooms during Vincent's 15-year career was welcoming to gay players.
A five-time Pro Bowler, Vincent earned the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2002 and the Bart Starr Man of the Year Award in 2004. In short, Vincent is one of the better men to have ever played in the NFL and utilized his status to help others.
Vincent's acceptance and open-minded approach bodes well for the future of the NFL, but will need to be adopted league-wide in order to encourage gay or bisexual players to come out and for current openly gay players to feel welcome among teammates.
With 2014 NFL draft prospect Michael Sam recently coming out publicly, this topic promises to remain in the spotlight for at least the near future.
For Vincent, a three-time All-Pro whom current players watched growing up, to acknowledge that he played and thrived alongside openly gay players is a big step toward changing the culture around the league. That's not to say that NFL locker rooms will be completely rid of homophobia in the next couple years, but that the right person and attitude have been put in place to produce change.
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