Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 6/12/12
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Connor Barwin has spoken out. He has dropped the hammer. He has expressed a normal and popular sentiment about homosexuality that feels familiar to all of us. And this is Headline News because Connor Barwin is a football player, one who plays in the NFL, where, you know, me make bang noise. Here's the bomb: Barwin, a linebacker for the Houston Texans, is not gay, but if he were, he doesn't think it would be that big of a deal in the Houston Texans' locker room, or any other in the NFL. "I think right now it would probably be hard for a guy to come out in our locker room just because of the awkwardness," Barwin said. "But I think they would be surprised at how welcoming people would be. I think at the end of the day guys care about how you play football, because we're all so competitive about winning that if there is a guy who comes out as gay in our locker room and he's a good football player, people aren't going to care about that. I think that's the honest truth." Barwin said this in an interview with OutSports.com, a website that explores the intersections of homosexuality and the sports world. The story has quickly been picked up my mainstream media outlets and turned Barwin -- otherwise best known for getting lots of sacks and looking sort of like Cosmo Kramer -- into an inspirational figure of sorts on this issue. Because everybody knows football players are nothing but hulking macho cavemen who stopped maturing in eighth grade, eat nothing but raw mastodon meat and have little capacity for human empathy or nuanced social positions, right? Barwin has a gay brother, so the strength of his perspective on this issue does not lie in its objectivity; he has a stake in this game. And he admits he hasn't had a conversation with a teammate about this particular hypothetical, so he's really just making an assumption. That said, I don't have any reason to doubt what Barwin is saying. He's the one in the locker room every day. So if he says it wouldn't be that big of a deal, I'm inclined to believe him unless another NFL player tells me otherwise, and that seems unlikely. And the main reason it seems unlikely is that I have a hard time believing attitudes toward homosexuality are much different inside an NFL locker room as they are outside one. The issue is controversial, so there are going to be varying opinions, but I think it's fair to say the prevailing attitude toward homosexuality in the United States in 2012, especially among people in their 20s and 30s, is one of acceptance. And I think it is unfair to assume football players are not riding the spinning wheel of American culture with the rest of us. Basically, there is nothing surprising about what Connor Barwin said. The greatest truth he expressed to OutSports.com was that "at the end of the day, guys care about how you play football." Wins and losses are all that ever matter in sports, which is why sports teams have a long history of accepting those society was not ready to accept -- as long as they could play. "It would help a lot if the player was a contributor to the team," Barwin told OutSports.com. "If he was a guy that people didn't like his personality or wasn't helping on the team, I think it would be very hard for him." There are almost 1,700 NFL players at any given moment. Some of them are gay. They have to be. It's probably a lower percentage than the population at large, but even if it's 1 percent, then there is one gay player for every two NFL teams. So far, no player has come out during his career, and Barwin said he has never known a teammate to be gay. But there's a difference between knowing a teammate to be gay and knowing you've had some gay teammates, and NFL players know that. Because, though, they live in the macho hetero football world, they live in the real world, too. "It's amazing how many people know relatives or friends who are gay," Barwin said. "So I think it might not be as hard as some people think."
PLAYERS: Connor Barwin
TEAMS: Houston Texans
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