New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma appeared on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" Monday night to clarify comments he made to NFL Media's Andrea Kremer earlier this month about how an openly gay player might be accepted in an NFL locker room.
"I think that he would not be accepted as much as we think he would be accepted," Vilma told Kremer. "I don't want people to just naturally assume, like, 'Oh, we're all homophobic.' That's really not the case. Imagine if he's the guy next to me and, you know, I get dressed, naked, taking a shower, the whole nine, and it just so happens he looks at me.
"How am I supposed to respond?"
The remarks stoked some flames Monday after University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam announced he plans to become the NFL's first openly gay player.
Vilma attempted to clarify those comments Monday.
"It was a poor illustration of the example I was trying to give on the context, so I do apologize for that," Vilma said, per The Times-Picayune. "I was trying to explain that whenever you have change into something that's been set in stone for so long, something that's been going for so long, that change always comes with a little resistance."
Vilma sees some "resistance" because there are 53 players in a locker room from a variety of backgrounds.
"You have people that can be more outgoing, more open-minded. You have people that are a little more closed-minded," Vilma said. "Some people grew up with or without the acceptance of gays within their families. You have a lot of different elements within the locker room that you just don't see right now. Me being on the inside for 10 years, inside the locker room, I've been around that.
"And it's not to say that the locker rooms are bad, it's to say that there are going to be people that accept it willingly as soon as he comes in, welcome him with open arms, and then unfortunately, there will be some, I'm about 99 percent sure the minority, will say, well, they're not comfortable with that yet.
"They don't know how to respond to that. That's just what's going to happen in the first whatever, the first year, two years. When you have more players like Michael Sam coming out and saying that they're gay, the transition will be a lot smoother."
That final comment is why Sam's announcement was such a big step. No transition can begin without someone making the first leap.