Justin Tuck of Giants: I'd accept gay teammate

Justin Tuck addresses the media after cleaning out Justin Tuck addresses the media after cleaning out his locker at the Timex Performance Center. (Dec. 31, 2012) Photo Credit: Errol Anderson

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NEW ORLEANS -- Justin Tuck wouldn't have a problem with having a gay teammate in the Giants' locker room.

Appearing at a Super Bowl event to promote the documentary "NFL Characters Unite," which will air on USA Network next week and focuses on overcoming prejudice and discrimination, the Giants defensive lineman said Thursday he does not care about the sexual orientation of teammates.

"I think all guys are similar in the fact that they don't discriminate against gays or what somebody else believes in," Tuck said. "For me, am I gay? No. Do I have any problems with being friends or teammates with someone who has decided to be gay? No. Like Larry [Fitzgerald, the Cardinals receiver who also appears in the documentary] said, all we care about is having teammates who are going to help us win football games and be champions.

"If we had a gay teammate who was going to do that, I don't have any problems with it."

The leaguewide conversation comes on the heels of comments by 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver at the Super Bowl this week in which, during a radio segment with comedian Artie Lange, Culliver said he would not tolerate a gay teammate. Culliver apologized repeatedly Thursday.

On the other side of town, on the other side of the Super Bowl and on the other side of the issue, Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, a proponent for marriage equality, said probably half the players in the NFL feel the same as Culliver.

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"It's a fight, it's an uphill battle," Ayanbadejo said, adding that the numbers are improving. "Oh, yeah, because you know, you went from 95 percent of the people thinking like Culliver. So we're definitely winning the battle."

That was evidenced by remarks from 49ers wide receiver Randy Moss: "We're all human. It's not right to judge a person judged on their sexual preference. This is 2013. It's not 1987 anymore."

But even those who are open-minded do not always fully appreciate the delicate nature of the issue. When asked to clarify one specific word in his remarks, Tuck told Newsday that he does think homosexuality is a choice "in some regards."

"I haven't done research on what causes you to be gay," Tuck said, "so my ignorance is that it's a choice."

49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said he spoke with Culliver but that the issue isn't a team matter. "There's not malice in his heart," Harbaugh said. "He's not a discriminatory person."

Culliver's contrition was repeated for most of his final media obligation of Super Bowl Week Thursday.

"I'm sorry if I offended anyone," said Culliver, who added that he has gay relatives. "They were ugly comments. Hopefully I learn and grow from the experience and this situation. That's not how I feel in my heart. I love San Francisco. Everybody is treated equally in our locker room. I was not thinking [when I made the comments]."

Tuck said the day may come when the NFL has an openly gay player, but it might not be for a while.

"I hope so," he said. "If there is a gay football player, I hope there comes a time when you can come out and say 'I'm openly gay' and I hope this league and this society will accept it.

"Do I think it's going to be anytime soon? No, I don't. But I don't have much to say about it because I don't think it is an issue yet. It will become an issue when somebody does come out and say 'I'm gay.' "

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With Art Spander

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