"We've seen rumors and heard stories about countless athletes in the past. But not since Troy Aikman have I been bombarded on email, text, Twitter and phone calls about the sexual orientation of any athlete the way I was [Wednesday] about Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o," writes Cyd Zeigler Jr., president of Outsports, which was founded in 2000.
"I've heard from sports writers, fans of Outsports, leaders in the gay-sports world, and even old high school friends, in the last six hours all wondering, 'Is Te'o going to be the first openly gay NFL player?' "
"I personally don't know," Zeigler writes. "But it seems to be the question everyone is asking. If he is, I hope he finds strength and acceptance; The vast majority of his friends, teammates and fans will support him whole-heartedly. If he's not, I hope he can answer some questions, because people want to know why on earth he would concoct this totally fabricated story — including eight-hour phone calls — if they never happened.
"I can certainly understand why people think this might be pointing to his sexual orientation. There has never been a publicly out NFL player. There has never been a publicly out Div. 1 football player. But we know they're out there. And if they were out there and wanted to hide their sexual orientation — or a relationship with another man — a fictitious girlfriend is a good way to do it. The fantastic story about car accidents and death by leukemia would just be showing off that stereotypical gay flair for the dramatic."
In 2009, Outsports detailed the story of a gay kicker on a Division I-A team in the Bible Belt. The player, who went by the pseudonym "Tim" in the story, was not totally "out." But his sexuality was not a problem with teammates and he often brought his boyfriend to team parties, according to Eric Anderson, who wrote the story.
"[Tim's] boyfriend is an openly gay former baseball player (he was closeted while playing) for his school. He comes to watch Tim play football whenever he can.
"Although Tim does not introduce him to his teammates as his boyfriend, 'people know,' Tim says. One of the team's seniors said to him this past season: 'I know about you, and if anyone ever messes with you, you just tell me who they are and I'll beat the crap out of whoever it is.' "