There have been 15 out gay and bi football players in the NFL’s 100-year history

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Oakland Raiders v Arizona Cardinals
Colton Underwood played in preseason games for the Oakland Raiders. | Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

The openly gay and bi football players have been trailblazers in the NFL’s 100 years.

2020 and 2021 updates at end of article to add 14th and 15th players.

The NFL kicks off its 100th season this weekend and that’s a good time to honor the contributions of the men who have been openly gay and bi and played in the league.

That number grew last week when former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Ryan Russell came out as bisexual. Last year, former Cowboys linebacker Jeff Rohrer came out as gay after marrying his partner. While Russell identifies as bi and is dating a man, the others identify as gay.

To only have 15 out players among the thousands who have been on preseason, practice squad or regular season NFL rosters (23,000 and counting in a survey done in 2014) is barely a blip and shows the stigma that still surrounds people who play football. Over the years, Outsports has known of a few other players who are gay but have never come out, even when retired. Dave Kopay was the first player to come out, in 1975, three years after retiring after a nine-year career.

Despite their small numbers, these 15 are trailblazers and have inspired many LGBT people in sports and every walk of life, so they are to be applauded.

Here is the list of football players in the NFL who have come out:

Played in a regular season game

Dave Kopay (1964-72): Running back with the 49ers, Lions, Redskins, Saints, and Packers.

Jerry Smith (1965-77): Tight end with the Redskins. The NFL Network produced a documentary on Smith being gay.

Ray McDonald (1967-68): Running back

Roy Simmons (1979-83): Offensive lineman with the Giants and Redskins.

Jeff Rohrer (1982-89): Linebacker with the Dallas Cowboys.

Esera Tuaolo (1991-99: Defensive tackle with the Packers, Vikings, Jaguars, Falcons and Panthers.

Kwame Harris (2003-2008): Offensive lineman with the 49ers and Raiders.

Ryan O’Callaghan (2006-2011): Offensive lineman with the Patriots and Chiefs.

Ryan Russell (2015-17, spent 2018 in Bills camp): Defensive lineman with the Buccaneers and Cowboys.

Attended training camp

Wade Davis (2000-2003): Wide receiver with the Titans, Seahawks and Redskins.

Dorien Bryant (2008): Wide receiver with the Steelers.

Martin Jenkins (1977): Defensive back with the Seahawks.

Brad Thorson (2011): Offensive lineman with the Cardinals.

Michael Sam (2014): Defensive end with the Rams. Also on the Cowboys practice squad.

Colton Underwood (2014-2016): Tight end had preseason or practice squad stints with the Chargers, Eagles and Raiders.

2020 update

In October, Martin Jenkins, a former defensive back for the Seattle Seahawks, was nominated to the California Supreme Court. Jenkins is gay and this was the the first time he widely discussed his sexual orientation.

2021 update

In April, Colton Underwood came out publicly. The star of the Bachelor said he has been struggling with his sexuality his whole life.

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