NFL Safety Kerry Rhodes, who last season played for the Arizona Cardinals and is now a free agent, told TMZ he is not gay, but he is supportive of a teammate coming out.
Replying to rumors that arose after MediaTakeOut.com released photos of Rhodes with his arm around a male friend, the footballer took a matter-of-fact tone.
"I am not gay," Rhodes flatly told TMZ on Friday. "The shots were taken during a past vacation in a casual environment with my entire business team."
Touching on the industry-wide conversation about the feasibility of an active athlete coming out as gay, Rhodes said he would have no problem playing alongside a gay teammate.
"I know a lot of people are recently talking about atheletes struggling to come out to their fans right now, and I support them, as well as with those individuals comfort," said Rhodes.
The National Football League is reportedly ramping up security in preparation for an active player to come out, according to USA Today. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told USA Today that the league's rookie conferences will include trainings on inclusion and tolerance, and that the league's senior vice president met with several LGBT athletic organizations, including You Can Play, which announced a partnship with the National Hockey League on Thursday.
If an active NFL player were to come out, Aiello told USA Today, "our league and team security people would be ready to monitor any kind of public reaction that might not be appropriate, including scrubbing social media" for potential threats, he said. "We would assist the player in dealing with any adverse public reaction of any type, if there is any. Hopefully there wouldn't be and it would be a non-issue, which it should be."