- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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For the first time, the NFL Rookie Symposium will include speakers on the issue of sexual orientation, the league's chief human resource's officer told ESPNNewYork.com.
The league plans to have ex-players, who they are calling ambassadors, speak about the possibility of having a gay teammate, and how to talk about these issues publicly, Robert Gulliver said Tuesday.
Gulliver said the league isn't anticipating one of its own players is on the verge of coming out, but in the wake of Jason Collins' decision to come out to Sports Illustrated in April, sports leagues are preparing players with the goal of having a harassment-free work place.
"I would not be surprised if there are more players coming out," Gulliver said.
As part of the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, the NFL has a formal policy against harassment when it comes to a player's sexual orientation. Not all players have been on message with it however.
The week before the Super Bowl, San Francisco player Chris Culliver said he wouldn't accept a gay teammate. Jim Harbaugh sat Culliver down privately afterwards and Culliver apologized. A month later, Culliver volunteered at the Trevor Project, an organization that works to prevent suicide among gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth.
Hudson Taylor, the founder of Athlete Ally, said the NFL's decision to include programming on the issue at the symposium, could help players better understand the policy, "so that these situations cease to exist."
His group is one of three that the league is consulting on the segment, GLAAD and You Can Play are the other two. Taylor noted that the NBA is doing something similar with its rookie class.
"A lot of people don't see LGBT issues as sports issues," Taylor said.
But if more players follow in Collins' footsteps, that could change.
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