We’re all eagerly waiting for the pro-athlete closet to be dismantled for good, but let’s not forget that gay men have been quietly playing in the NFL, NBA and MLB all along: Members of the 1993 Houston Oilers have come forward in a recent interview and stated that at least two teammates were widely known to be gay, and the team didn’t have a real problem with it.
“Everybody in the locker room, the consensus knew or had an idea that things were not exactly right,” former Oilers linebacker Lamar Lathon told the Houston Chronicle. “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.” Lathon called the unnamed players “unbelievable teammates” and insisting that “if you wanted to go to war with someone, you would get those guys first.”
The revelation is all the more stunning given that the 1993 Oilers have been called the most dysfunctional pro football team in NFL history: The team had a rocky start but won 11 straight games that year, the longest in the NFL since 1972. But they lost abysmally in the first-round playoffs to Joe Montana and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Rumors about the tumultuous team circulated in the media at the time: Ernest Givens, who played with the Oilers in the 1990s was the subject of gay rumors, but denied them to ESPN in 1998. (Defensive tackle Jeff Alm was, too, when he committed suicide after killing his best friend in a drunk-driving accident in 1993.)
“I know of a couple of players who I won’t mention their names because they have not made it public yet,” Hall of Famer Warren Moon announced on the Victor and Matt Sports Podcast in 2011. “It really doesn’t bother me what your sexual preference is as long as you don’t bring in your sexual preferences to the locker room… As long as you’re coming to the football team and bringing a positive influence, that’s all that matters to me.”
Dishman added the two players being discussed now were accomplished on the field, and said showering with them was “no big deal.”
So the lesson is pro teams will eagerly accept a gay player—if he’s an MVP.