While the 1993 Houston Oilers are remembered for their dysfunction -- an up-and-down season, coordinators punching each other on the sidelines, the benching of a Hall of Fame quarterback -- a recent report by the Houston Chronicle's Brian T. Smith suggests they were also progressive. According to former players, two members of the roster were gay, information that was widely known and accepted by teammates.
The two players, who have not been named, were considered valuable contributors to the team, Pro Bowl linebacker Lamar Lathon said.
Listen, those guys that we're talking about were unbelievable teammates. And if you wanted to go to war with someone, you would get those guys first. Because I have never seen tougher guys than those guys. And everybody in the locker room, the consensus knew or had an idea that things were not exactly right. But guess what? When they strapped the pads on and got on the field, man, we were going to war with these guys because they were unbelievable.
While the two were not technically open, their sexual orientation was well known around the locker room, agreed two-time Pro Bowler Chris Dishman.
"Everybody knew certain guys (were gay). Everybody speculated and people used to see these two guys come in by themselves. They’d leave at lunchtime and then come back," Dishman said.
The team, which entered the season as Super Bowl favorites, started 1-4 then rattled off 11-consecutive wins only to lose in the Divisional round of the playoffs. Their tumultuous and often bizarre season is chronicled in a recent NFL Network documentary.
In April, 12-year NBA veteran Jason Collins became the first openly gay active athlete in the four major U.S. professional sports. Collins, who has played with six NBA teams, has been lauded as a pioneer for the LGBT community. A free agent at the time of his announcement, he has not played for a team since coming out.
Robbie Rogers of Major League Soccer became the first openly gay player to actually participate in a U.S. professional sports league when he entered a game as a substitute for the Los Angeles Galaxy in May. Rogers made his sexual orientation public the same day he retired from the league in February, but returned to the MLS as a member of the Galaxy three months later.