The Dallas Cowboys are probably the last team any NFL fan would expect to have anything do with queer culture. Owner Jerry Jones has put his foot in his mouth numerous times over the course of his 30+ years of ownership, and the state of Texas isn't exactly known for LGBTQ+ support.
But what if I told you America's Team has a long history of queerness, from the players on the field to quotes from Jerry Jones himself? The Cowboys may not have hosted a Pride night at the stadium yet — something that's only recently been done amongst NFL teams — but every June I can't help but think how the most valuable NFL franchise's history includes numerous stories about gay athletes, allies and more.
Let's start on the gridiron.
Michael Sam, Jeff Rohrer and Ryan Russell
Michael Sam broke barriers as the first openly gay player to be drafted in the NFL. And after his stint with the St. Louis Rams, he was signed by the Cowboys to the practice squad.
His name time in Dallas lasted just a month and a half in 2014, but even more important is that Jones and the team supported him. When asked about Sam's sexuality being an issue on the team, he called it a "dead issue."
The way he was released by the Cowboys wasn't the greatest, however. Sam said he was called into Jones' office and was asked if he had ever seen a Super Bowl ring.
"Hopefully we can bring one to Dallas this year," Sam recalled Jones saying to him, giving him hope he'd make the 53-man roster.
In a split second, that changed.
"Well, sit down," Jones said. "We're going to have to let you go."
Sam couldn't believe it.
"I was like, holy s—-," Sam said.
The Cowboys have had at least two other gay or bisexual players on the team, too. Jeff Rohrer was a linebacker in Dallas from 1982-89, playing in 83 games over the span. He married his husband, Joshua Ross, in 2018. The couple were welcomed with open arms to a Cowboys team reunion in 2018.
"I was super scared headed to Dallas and how it would go down, but everyone was amazing and great. Everyone was totally accepting," he told OutSports.
Ryan Russell, currently a free agent now known as RK Russell, came out as bisexual in 2019. He was drafted in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft and played defensive end for the Cowboys in 2015. His most notable on-field contributions came in 2017 with the Buccaneers, when he played in 14 games and logged two sacks.
Cowboys Legend Michael Irvin is a Vocal Ally
You probably didn't know Michael Irvin, the Hall of Fame receiver who won three Super Bowls in the 1990s, once posed on the cover of Out Magazine in 2011. You also probably didn't know Irvin had a gay brother named Vaughn, who he loved and supported until he died of stomach cancer at 49 in 2006.
Irvin is far from perfect, and an arrest history plus sexual assault allegations can attest to that, but he's been a vocal ally to the community. In fact, he told Out Magazine that he would fully support any player who comes out in pro sports.
"If anyone comes out in those top four major sports, I will absolutely support him," Irvin said. "That's why I do my radio show every day. When these issues come out, I want to have a voice to speak about them. I think growth comes when we share. Until we do that, we're going to be stuck in the Dark Ages about a lot of things. When a guy steps up and says, 'This is who I am,' I guarantee you I'll give him 100% support."
He continued, adding that the Cowboys locker room would've been a welcomed place for a gay player.
"I believe, if a teammate had said he was gay, we would have integrated him and kept moving because of the closeness. We had a bunch of different characters on that team. Deion [Sanders] and Emmitt [Smith]. I believe that team would have handled it well."
"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. 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."
Irvin also supported Carl Nassib when he came out in 2021.
Carl Nassib has impacted and inspired a generation of athletes. ???
— NFL (@NFL) February 11, 2022
Well said, Michael.
The Domain Battle For Cowboys.com
For most NFL teams, all you have to do to get to their websites is type 'Dolphins' or '49er's followed by a dot com. Doing that for the 'Cowboys' won't take you to the team's official site, however.
That's because back in 2007, someone who wanted to make cowboys.com a gay dating site for men won the bid. The Cowboys had a chance at buying the domain but a miscommunication with someone from the team led to them thinking the bid was for $275 instead of $275,000. The new owners of the domain then said the site would be for "gay & straight dating people looking to find themselves a cowboy," according to Deadspin.
Yeah, the Cowboys couldn't even do that right. The domain doesn't take you to the dating site anymore, but it's still funny knowing it happened.
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