Free agent linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo says four National Football League players are considering coming out as gay.
Ayanbadejo, who was cut by the Baltimore Ravens earlier this week after winning the Super Bowl with the team in February, told the paper in an interview that the groundwork was being laid to reduce the pressure on such a player and he thinks it will happen sooner than you think.
He says up to four players are considering the move, and they're trying to be organised so they can come out on the same day together, which would make a major splash and take the pressure off any one player.
There is still not one openly gay player in any of America's major professional sports leagues and nowhere has the issue become hotter than in the NFL, the most macho of pro sports.
The comments from Ayanbadejo, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, came shortly after he suggested in an interview with Newsday that his activism for gay rights led to the Ravens' decision to cut him.
Ayanbadejo later tweeted that he was misquoted and the Ravens denied that the player's advocacy for gay rights was a factor in the decision to release him.
In the days leading up to this year's Super Bowl in New Orleans, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver told reporters he would not welcome a homosexual team mate into the locker room. He later retracted his comments.
The NFL said its investigation into allegations that at least one team inquired about the sexual orientation of a prospective player at this year's scouting combine will not result in any penalties.
The NFL launched a review after a player who attended the February combine in Indianapolis said during a radio interview that he was asked about his sexual orientation, which the league says is against the rules.