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ESPN survey: 86 percent of NFL players would welcome gay teammate

44 out of 51 respondents said that a player's sexual orientation didn't matter to them.

By Evan Bleier

COLUMBIA, Mo., Feb. 17 (UPI) -- After Missouri defensive end Michael Sam announced last week his intention to become the NFL's first openly gay player, ESPN surveyed players about how they would feel about playing with a gay teammate.

Here is how 50 players answered four true-or-false questions:

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• A player's sexual orientation matters to you. True: 7 False: 44 • I had teammates or coaches who used homophobic slurs last season. True: 32 False: 19 • I would shower around a gay teammate. True: 39 False: 12 • An openly gay player would be comfortable in an NFL locker room. True: 25 False: 21 No answer: 5

Even though the survey indicates that Sam would be welcome in the locker room, it certainly makes it clear that the regular use of homophobic slurs could potentially make him uncomfortable.

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"Whoever takes [Sam in the draft] should have an open talk at the beginning of camp, where everybody can ask what he's comfortable with, what offends him, what boundaries there should be,” said one starting receiver. “When it comes to race, people already know the boundaries, to a certain extent. But I don't think football players are overly familiar with what can and can't be said around a gay person."

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Sam was co-SEC defensive player of the year last season and is projected to be drafted between the third and fifth rounds in May.

"There is a little more of a family environment in college. It was more like having brothers. In the NFL, you have friends, but it's a more work-oriented environment,” said a starting tight end. “I hope guys can be professional and respect who he is and leave his personal life out of it."

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[ESPN]

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