Hines Ward, shown with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2009. (Ed Zurga / Associated Press )
Hines Ward is all for gay football players coming out of the closet and just being themselves.
But the former Super Bowl MVP doesn't play in the NFL anymore. And he apparently feels that some current players don't feel the same way he does.
Ward told NBC Sports Radio on Tuesday, the day after NBA center Jason Collins became the first active male athlete in a major team sport to publicly admit he's gay, that he doesn't think the time is right for a similar situation in the NFL.
“I don’t think football is ready," Ward told host Erik Kuselia. "There’s too many guys in the locker room and, you know, guys play around too much.”
Even before Collins' announcement, it appeared the culture Ward describes might be changing. Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo and Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe have been outspoken advocates of gay rights.
Ayanbadejo said last week that an NFL player could come out "sooner than you think," and that as many as four NFL players are considering doing it at the same time.
The NFL sent out a document this week reminding teams of the league's anti-discrimination policy on sexual orientation, saying that “any jokes, comments or pranks” about a player's sexual orientation constitute harassment.
But on the same day as Collins' admission, Miami Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace found himself apologizing for a tweet in which he wondered why "guys wanna mess with other guys" when there are "all these beautiful women in the world."
Ward, who retired before the 2012 season, said he will have nothing but support for any active player who does decide to come out publicly.
“Hopefully one guy comes out of the closet and [will] be comfortable with himself,” Ward said. “I don’t have anything against a gay football player or a gay person period, so if he does, he has support from me. I want people to live their lives for who they are and don’t have to hide behind closed doors to do that.”
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