Terrell Thomas: Nobody wants the media attention a gay teammate would bring
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Terrell Thomas said he would "probably not'' have a problem with a gay teammate. What he might take issue with would be the unending questions about that gay teammate.
"I thought it was very courageous, and it took a lot of heart for him to believe in himself," the Giants cornerback said of linebacker Michael Sam, the potential 2014 draft pick from Missouri who earlier this week announced he is gay.
"But at the end of the day, you're not just going to have local beat reporters and ESPN in the locker room. CNN, all these news outlets are going to be coming to the team asking about it. Nobody wants that attention. If he can play football and help our team win, that's all that matters. It's the unwanted attention that's probably going to ruffle some feathers."
Thomas noted how even last year's media storm with the Dolphins surged into the Giants' locker room. When Richie Incognito was accused of bullying Jonathan Martin, questions were posed to the Giants about an incident from more than a year earlier regarding Prince Amukamara and his involuntary swim in a cold tub.
"It's unfortunate that the society we live in, we have to walk on pins and needles," Thomas said.
Other teams have gone through such situations. The Broncos and Jets endured the glare of the national spotlight when each acquired Tim Tebow. The Chargers felt it when they drafted Manti T'eo last year.
But drafting Sam or another openly gay player, Thomas said, would be on a different level. "Now you're bringing in different views and opinions," he said.
The Giants are among the NFL teams that have stated publicly that Sam's position on their draft board will not be affected by his announcement.
"If he was on my team, would I have a problem with it? Probably not," Thomas said, acknowledging that he probably has had gay teammates in the past. "But at the end of the day, I don't know if the NFL is ready for that. America is. Fortune 500 companies are. But to compare an NFL locker room to another work environment doesn't make sense."
Of course, there is no guarantee Sam and Thomas will even be on the same team, much less the Giants. Sam does not fit the Giants' profile for defensive ends, and Thomas is a free agent. He said he will test the market for the first time in his career when the league year begins in March.
"The Giants understand that and respect it," Thomas said. "I'm loyal to the Giants, I want to remain a Giant, and hopefully everything works out."
Thomas played well in 2013 after missing the 2011 and 2012 seasons with ACL reconstructions. He was drafted by the Giants and signed a long-term deal with the team just days before free agency began in 2012. That contract was turned into a one-year deal last year to account for his third career knee surgery.
"Things change," he said of his attitude toward free agency from 2012 to now. "A couple of years went by. My number one choice is the Giants, but you never know."