What Should the First Active NFL Player to Come Out Be Like?
By Andrew Villagomez
Following recent opinions on gay football players coming out while active on the team roster, USA Network's Necessary Roughness will be showing viewers what it could be like, using a character from the show's fictional NFL team, The New York Hawks, in an inspiring and realistic coming out story.
While the main plot of Necessary Roughness focuses on Long Island divorcée Dani (Callie Thorne), who re-energizes her life and career when she becomes a therapist for The Hawks, the season finale will be show us how a 'Big 4' athlete could come out in today's society while on the team roster.
In a two-part episode, with the first airing on Feb. 13, we meet a high-profile player (who has not been truly explored previously on the show) named Rex Evans. He's been described by the team's GM Matt (Marc Blucas) as someone who keeps to himself and has never been a problem—until recently. It seems Rex has begun to have a habit of rough housing on the field during games. Matt asks Dani to sit with Rex and find out why he's been behaving in such an intolerable way on the field.
Although Rex is growing angry about being questioned on his personal life, after a couple of sessions with Dani, he decides to reveal what's really going on. After confiding in her, he reveals the name of his "girlfriend."
[OK, SPOILER ALERT: Don't read beyond this point if you don't want to know more]
"Jim, my partner." We see a total attitude change in Rex after he reveals the truth that he's gay.
He tells Dani about Jim, and how he can't move in with him, despite wanting to.
"My family doesn't know, and there are no gay active football players, not one," Rex explains, "Or in any major sport for that matter, and I ain't about to be the first.
"Living a double life is taking it's toll on and off the field," Dani responds, and Rex says he knows and that Jim has laid down an ultimatum.
"The first gay professional football player, and a quarterback to boot? You have any idea what kind of story that would turn into?" Rex asks. "I don't want to be 'Jackie Robinson,' I just want to play ball."
"But I don't want to lose him," he says with hopeful tone.
We later meet Jim, and also see how Rex (Travis Smith) decides to come out. And that's all just in the first of the two episodes.
Watch a clip as the supportive Dani tells the GM, head coach, and the team's head of security of Rex's decision in the opening scene of the season finale on Feb. 20:
Make sure to tune in to both episodes to see the depiction of the media's role, and how Rex's fellow teammates react. Some show the homophobia that can exist in the locker in both episodes, but others show what it truly means to be a teammate.
This story arc is part of USA Network’s Characters Unite Month, which features a variety of programs and content to combat hate, intolerance, and discrimination of all kinds. GLAAD, HRC, and GLSEN are among the program's partners, and White Collar's Matt Bomer will be doing a PSA.