Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin said in a magazine interview that he would support a player if he said he was gay.
"I believe, if a teammate had said he was gay, we would have integrated him and kept moving because of the closeness," the former Cowboys' star said in an interview with Out magazine. "We had a bunch of different characters on that team. Deion (Sanders) and Emmitt (Smith). I believe that team would have handled it well."
One of Irvin's older brothers was gay, and the receiver said he developed an understanding of the need for equality. He also felt empathy for anyone struggling with the decision to come out, particularly professional athletes.
"I'm not gay, but I was afraid to even let anyone have the thought," Irvin said. "I can only imagine the agony -— being a prisoner in your own mind -- for someone who wants to come out. If I'm not gay and I am afraid to mention it, I can only imagine what an athlete must be going through if he is gay."
Irvin, who appears in a photo in the magazine shirtless with a pair of shoulder pads, said he hopes society can advance to the point where gay athletes can come forward.
"Hopefully, as we move forward, we'll get to a place where there's no way it's even considered; it just is what it is and everybody can do what they do," Irvin said. "That's the ultimate goal."
Irvin said he is especially sensitive to the idea of equal treatment for all because he is African-American.
"I don't see how any African-American with any inkling of history can say that you don't have the right to live your life how you want to live your life," he said. "No one should be telling you who you should love, no one should be telling you who you should be spending the rest of your life with. When we start talking about equality and everybody being treated equally, I don’t want to know an African-American who will say everybody doesn’t deserve equality."