Dear Roger Goodell, Esteemed NFL Commissioner:
First and foremost, congratulations on running one of the most successful entertainment franchises in America. I know it must take a tremendous amount of talent and hours to make the NFL run like a well-executed winning Super Bowl touchdown.
Secondly, I'd like to introduce myself. My name is Rick Clemons. I'm 6'4, 280 pounds, built like a linebacker, sport a goatee, shaved head, and an alum of Oklahoma State University. I had the privilege of attending a couple of classes with Thurman Thomas, and while I'm not a raging Monday Night Football fan, I can hold my own watching a game. I'm often asked, "Did you play football?" to which I reply, "Only mud football with my college dorm buddies."
You see, I was never a big sports head. In fact, like many young men, my high school years were kind of a nightmare. I went to a private church high school, and we didn’t participate in competitive sports with other schools. We had a physical education program, so we weren't sports nerds. Yet, like most young men, those days in the locker room were fiercely frightening. Dropping your drawers, taking showers, wondering if you had all the right components of a young maturing man to keep from being ridiculed, while also facing the disgrace of not being physically adept at sports, it was a surefire recipe for years of therapy. However, I learned early on to play one of the most masterful games of all — wear the mask to be whatever made others feel comfortable in who you are. Never letting others see the real me, and always pretending to be something I wasn’t.
By now you're probably asking me, "What the heck is this Rick guy trying to share with me?" Ok, you caught me; it's time to get to the point. Here's the irony, whether it’s you, Mr. NFL Commissioner, or Bud Selig, the Major League Baseball commissioner, or the International Olympic Committee, the sporting world has an infection. It hasn’t officially been diagnosed by the Center For Disease Control, nor is it something that can be treated by a prescription. In fact, the only way to treat this infection is to open your players’, and the sports worlds, hearts and minds. But, before I tell you why that’s the only treatment that will work, let’s talk about the costs to you and your NFL franchise if this doesn’t get addressed.
First, when people are pretending to be something they’re not, all their energy and focus is spent on covering their tracks. Now, like it or not, most of us humans, you included, are pretending to be something we’re not. I know, I just accused you of something, and I don’t even know you personally. But out of respect, I’ll give you a break because at $44+ million dollars a year salary, you kick my ass. However, just because I might never see that kind of money in my checking account, unless you hire me to come speak to each of your NFL franchises about diversity and inclusion, I have a message to share with you. A simple message that is the cure. Simply being human is the best medicine. Love people, and let them be who they are, period!
Here's the deal. Michael Sam and I are brothers. Well, not exactly, his last name is Sam and my last name is Clemons. And, if you haven’t figured it out by now, we're both gay. I hope that didn't shock you anymore than his announcement that he was gay.
In fact, the reason I'm corresponding is, I'm The Gay Life Coach. I work with men who are struggling with their sexuality, guys who find themselves in a mid-life crisis of "What’s next?" and with people from all walks of life who are coming out of whatever closet is preventing them from being their most authentic self. In fact, Roger, can I call you Roger? What closets do you face as the NFL Commissioner each and every day? Do you raise prices for game tickets? That’s a closet door to walk through. Do you allow new recruits to do something that in the past other new recruits might never have been permitted to do? That’s a closet door to walk through. Do you fight equality in the locker rooms when a player like Michael Sam comes out and says, 'Hey guys, I’m gay, but don’t worry, I'm not checking out the junk between your legs or that fantastic booty in the showers because I want ya.” That’s a closet.
You see, I know, if I'd been given the opportunity, because of my physical build, to play football, I just might have gone that route and been one of the first college football players to come out of the closet. Instead, I hid in a closet. I hid for 38 years. I married a woman that I really did love. I fathered two children, yes, I know that sounds weird that a gay man could have sex with a woman, but it’s much more common that you think. And, I finally came out to say, “I cannot pretend to be someone I’m not." The same way Michael Sam did. Let me tell you something, which you might already know, given your place in society, "Living in the closet isn’t powerful, it's disempowering."
So imagine for a moment, that there are, which I am positive there are, more NFL players, who feel disempowered because they’re living a dual life in the NFL, as gay men who fear coming out. Imagine what might be possible if the NFL said, "Your sexual orientation doesn’t mean a thing!" For crying out loud, the freedom, confidence, and drive for success that frees people once they realize, they don’t have any reason to live with a mask on, is so frickin’ awesome. Then, add to the “this shift is good” feeling, the fans that would feel more comfortable showing up at stadiums, no regrets or fear, waving a rainbow flag in the stands emblazoned with the words, "I'm gay and I love the NFL!" Picture what that could do to break down the barriers of discrimination and hate throughout this fine country of ours as well as add dollars to any sport franchise.
I know what I described may seem like a pipe dream, but let me give you a little insight.
• Gay men aren’t lusting after straight men, anymore than straight men are lusting after straight women
• Lesbians, who are a significant population of football fans, are not just watching the games to see the cheerleaders pressing out of their tight little tops
• Gays and lesbians, without sounding stereotypical, in some cases have a huge amount of disposable income to pour into the NFL franchise
• Even if a gay NFL player comes out, it doesn’t mean he suddenly got a “gay injection” and his performance will be impeded
• If anything, more sports figures coming out of the closet, will pave the way for a young men or women, who love sports, to come out, earlier, and get rid of that debilitating energy, that keeps them in the closet. Instead they'll pour that energy into becoming a peak performer, which in turn, creates a sports superstar, and we both know what sports superstars create … butts in seats!
So you see Mr. Goodell, I have no intentions of turning you or the entire NFL franchise gay, even though that could be a gay man’s fantasy. In reality, what I'm suggesting is, you, the players, the fans, open their hearts and minds to a whole new vision of family sports and entertainment where sexual orientation has no barriers. Because, what it really comes down to, when the jerseys come off, the pads get put on the racks, and the jocks drop, NFL players are just naked human men. Standing there, a mass of bones, blood, veins, skin, and cells — equal in every way and unique in every way as well. That uniqueness can be the color of their skin, the length of their hair, the mass of their muscles, and the power of their 50-yard dash. Another unique quality is their sexuality. The interesting thing about sexuality, gay or straight, is it has nothing to do with the performance on the field, nor does what a player does behind closed doors, in the privacy of one's home, in ones own bedroom impede a players ability tackle, punt, or sprint 75-yards down the field to score the winning touch down. Sexuality is simply sexuality, and there should be no penalty flags for being who you truly are in your own skin!
Again, Mr. Goodell, thanks for listening to me, and could I ask just one more favor? Could you book Adele Dazeem (a.k.a. Idina Menzel) and John Travolta to perform a "Grease" tribute at the 2015 Super Bowl?
The Coming Out Coach & Football Fan!