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NFL Great Barry Sanders: “If Somebody Comes Out, They Are Going To Get Teased”

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(credit: Tom Pidgeon/Allsport)

(credit: Tom Pidgeon/Allsport)

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DETROIT (97.1 THE TICKET) – In the lead up to the Super Bowl here has been a lot of talk about how an openly gay player would be treated in the NFL. Detroit Lions Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders was hijacked by TMZ.com and asked if a gay player would have any trouble.

“I would say ‘I doubt it’ … I would say in a locker room you get teased for anything so you are going to get teased for anything,” said Sanders. “If somebody comes out they are going to get teased – they are going to have to have thick skin and go one about their life.”

The issue came into focus this week after San Francisco 49ers corner back Chris Culliver said an openly gay teammate would not be welcome.

Check out the TMZ video here … as Barry answers the big question and smiles for the camera as fans come up to pose for a picture with the Hall of Famers.

Yahoo! Sports posted an excerpt online of the Tuesday interview between Culliver and comedian-shock jock Artie Lange, who began by asking Culliver if he’s been approached by homosexuals.

“Nah, I don’t do the gay guys, man … I don’t do that,” said Culliver.

Lange then asked if there were any homosexual players were on the 49ers.

“No, we don’t got no gay people on the team,” said Culliver. “They gotta get up out of here if they do.”

Lange asked Culliver to reiterate his thoughts, to which the player said, “It’s true.” He added he wouldn’t welcome a gay teammate – no matter how talented.

“Can’t be with that sweet stuff,” continued Culliver. “Nah… can’t be… in the locker room man. Nah.”

When Lange asked Culliver whether any gay players would need to keep their sexual preferences a secret, Culliver said: “Yeah, come out 10 years later after that.”

One of the 49ers opponents in Super Bowl XLVII,  Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, is an outspoken supporter of gay rights and has been using the Super Bowl spotlight to bring attention to marriage equality and anti-bullying.

Culliver’s comments also came days after reports of an alleged assault by former 49ers offensive tackle Kwame Harris against a former boyfriend. Harris was never outed as gay during his six-year career with the 49ers (2003-07) and Raiders (2008).

Six months ago, San Francisco became the NFL’s first team to join “It Gets Better,” an anti-bullying campaign targeted at teenagers who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Hours before the 24-year-old Culliver apologized on Wednesday, the 49ers released this statement regarding Culliver’s remarks: “The San Francisco 49ers reject the comments that were made [Tuesday], and have addressed the matter with Chris. There is no place for discrimination within our organization at any level. We have and always will proudly support the LGBT community.”

But the team didn’t elaborate on whether the second-year player, made 47 tackles with two interceptions and a forced fumble this season while starting six games for the NFC champion Niners, would face disciplinary action or a fine.

This wasn’t the first time a 49ers player created an uproar by making anti-gay comments.

In 2002, 49ers running back Garrison Hearst used a slur to describe gays in an interview with the Fresno Bee newspaper, while saying he wouldn’t want a gay player as a teammate.

Hearst, too, later apologized for those remarks.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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