Kwame Harris played six seasons in the NFL - five with the San Francisco 49ers and one with the Oakland Raiders - before throwing in the towel in 2008.
But all through his career, the former NFL player refused to publicly accept that he was homosexual, fearing it would affect his career. In an interview to CNN, Harris admitted that coming out at any point during his NFL stint was out of the question.
"No, not while I was playing. I didn't see those two things as being compatible. But now when I look back in hindsight, if I could have done it differently, I would like to think that I would find the strength or find the fortitude or the grace to kind of make the hard decision."
Harris' sexual orientation was outed early this year when a former boyfriend filed a case against the player alleging assault. The trial date has been set for late April.
When asked why he was coming out about his sexuality now, Harris replied he wanted to help other athletes who are still in the closet. "I want people -- whether they're gay athletes or athletes who are still in the closet or youth who aren't quite sure of what their sexuality is -- to realize that not only is that not unique but those feelings are common feelings. Don't feel incredibly alone in having these questions."
Interestingly, till date no player has come out as gay while in uniform, though CBS Sports reported that a "current gay NFL player is strongly considering coming out publicly within the next few months."
In the meantime, it is too soon to say if the atmosphere is appropriate for gay NFL players to come out. Homophobic rants are not uncommon in locker rooms, and more recently, San Francisco 49ers defensive back Chris Culliver was very vocal about his dislike of gays.
"I don't do the gay guys man," Culliver said during the Super Bowl. "I don't do that. No, we don't got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do. Can't be with that sweet stuff. Nah...can't be...in the locker room man. Nah."
However, a number of people feel the time is apt to accept gay athletes. There is even a YouTube movement called the You Can Play project that aims to eliminate homophobia in sports. Click here to watch videos of athletes supporting the You Can Play movement.