New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma was the poster boy of intolerance after expressing his concerns about having an openly gay player in an NFL locker room.
Since Missouri defensive end Michael Sam gained national attention for revealing he was gay prior to the NFL draft, Vilma has attempted to clarify his statements.
Here is what Vilma originally said during an NFL Network interview with Andrea Kremer:
"I think that he would not be accepted as much as we think he would be accepted," Vilma said. "I don't want people to just naturally assume, like, 'Oh, we're all homophobic.' That's really not the case. Imagine if he's the guy next to me and, you know, I get dressed, naked, taking a shower, the whole nine, and it just so happens he looks at me.
"How am I supposed to respond?"
Well, Vilma had a chance to think about his initial response to the question about a gay NFL player, and tried to clarify his thoughts on “AC360."
"It was a poor illustration of the example I was trying to give on the context, so I do apologize for that," Vilma said (via Nola.com). "I was trying to explain that whenever you have change into something that's been set in stone for so long, something that's been going for so long, that change always comes with a little resistance."
What kind of resistance is Vilma referring to?
"You have people that can be more outgoing, more open-minded. You have people that are a little more close-minded," Vilma said (via Nola.com). "Some people grew up with or without the acceptance of gays within their families. You have a lot of different elements within the locker room that you just don't see right now. Me being on the inside for 10 years, inside the locker room, I've been around that.
"And it's not to say that the locker rooms are bad, it's to say that there are going to be people that accept it willingly as soon as he comes in, welcome him with open arms, and then unfortunately, there will be some, I'm about 99 percent sure the minority, will say, well, they're not comfortable with that yet, they don't know how to respond to that. That's just what's going to happen in the first whatever, the first year, two years. When have more players like Michael Sam coming out and saying that they're gay, the transition will be a lot smoother."
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith is determined to make sure Sam’s transition to the NFL is smooth.
During an interview with CSNWashington.com, Smith said if Sam encounters any problems because of his sexual orientation within an NFL organization, the NFLPA will jump in.
"With both feet," Smith said. "This isn’t a union that has had a tough time stepping in with two feet to protect the interests of its players. If there ever came a time where we believe that there was a need for us to do something for this player or any player similarly situated, I’m sure the league wouldn’t be surprised to see a letter from me coming across their desk."
In addition, Vilma tried to clarify his hesitation to shower with a gay teammate.
"Again, the point I was trying to make or the context I was trying to take it in is that I've never been put in that situation, no player in the NFL has been put in that situation, so it's not as simple as anyone saying, well, there's nothing wrong with it," Vilma said. "I don't see anything wrong with it. You have other players that may, you have other players that may not.
"I don't know and the players don't know because it's the first time that you have a Michael Sam, who will by all accounts be drafted, openly gay, come into a locker room. No one in the NFL in the past, however, many years has experienced this before so this is all new for everybody, this is new territory."
Some may view Vilma’s clarification as good ol’ fashion backpedaling, but the last thing he needed is to be viewed as homophobic with an openly gay player about to enter the NFL – or become his teammate.
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