Here’s how Wade explains living “semi-open”:
T: So what’s the lifestyle of someone who’s, let’s call it, semi-open? Because women are part of the culture of being in the NFL. You talked about being in gentlemen’s clubs and making it rain just to prove that you weren’t. This sort of person doesn’t have to do that because their teammates know and accept that?
W: If a guy is known to not roll that way he just exists the same way you and I would when you go home to your wife and I go home to my partner.
T: But when you play on a team with a guy you tend to get to know him. You see his kids, his girlfriend, his mistress, what have you. So if you’re gay the teammates are going to know.
W: Yes… One particular guy I know of keeps things very separate. But everything else that his teammates do he does. If they go to the Waffle House late night or if there’s a barbeque or a smoke session at someone’s house this guy goes and just exists just like everyone else. His partner may not take part in that.
T: The beat reporters don’t figure it out?
W: When I was playing I had a partner. But he presented as straight so people would think, oh that’s just his boy. There is no interrogation of people’s friends. You choose very strategically when you’re in the closet. You choose someone who’s very masculinely presenting, who can pass as just a friend.
And a lot of guys rolled with crews. So if there’s four or five guys waiting on you afterwards no one’s gonna know who that is. And there are other guys who don’t have their partners come to the games at all.
T: Were you afraid of being found or outed when you were a player?
W: I don’t think I was afraid of getting caught. It was easier for me to exist in this cloak of secrecy. I just didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what the response would be, I didn’t know if it would change the team dynamic, I didn’t know if I was ready to own it in front of other people, too. Cuz as long as you’re denying it to yourself it’s not really real. The hardest time was when I was in Barcelona [with the Barcelona Dragons of NFL Europe]. We were in Sitges, the second highest gay populated place in the world. So we’d be looking down at a resort beach and you see hundreds, thousands of gay men on the beach in Speedos and walking the streets shirtless and stuff. Imagine me being closeted there. It was my worst fear come true. And one thing that worked against me is my popularity. Everyone on the team liked me and that prevented me from ever being able to go out and explore alone. There’d be times I try to sneak out at night and people would be like oh I’ll go with you and I’d be like damn. Because I wanted to have a conversation with another gay men like what’s your life like? But I couldn’t get away. So being there was the hardest time in my life and my play suffered. I’d never played so bad because there was so many gay men. Nowhere you went there weren’t lots of attractive gay men.
T: In 2002 Sterling Sharpe said on HBO’s RealSports that if you came out as gay on Monday you wouldn’t make it to Sunday. You wouldn’t make it to the other team because you wouldn’t want the other team to think differently of you. Was he right?
W: I don’t believe that he was correct. I think if you asked Sterling Sharpe if Brett Favre said he was gay would he have taken Brett Favre out? No way. I think Sterling was thinking this guy would be the last guy on the roster. If Tom Brady said he was gay they wouldn’t take Tom Brady out.
T: So ok the star player comes out, then we’ll accept that but if the bench player comes out he’ll get taken out.
W: No, I don’t think he’ll be taken out and I think Sterling Sharpe’s argument is bull… Everyone knows the hard work that guys put in. They may not socialize with him outside of football because of some religious beliefs or because they’re uncomfortable but I don’t believe anyone would intentionally take a player out.
Do you agree with Davis? Hit the flip for what he has to say about the Gay “Jackie Robinson” moment that people are anticipating for team pro sports.