Former NFL offensive lineman Kwame Harris regrets not coming out as being gay while he was playing in the league, but he didn't see the two as being "compatible," the 2003 first-round draft pick told CNN on Friday.
Harris, who played six years as an offensive lineman with the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders, said he always has known he's gay but kept it a secret. Harris was outed in January after being arrested for an alleged fight with his former boyfriend over "soy sauce and underwear."
Former NFL linebacker Coy Wire, a CNN contributor, spoke to Harris on the Stanford campus, where the two were college teammates.
"I love football. Football provided me with some experiences and some opportunities that I wouldn't trade for anything else, but at the same time, the cost was great in asking me to not speak candidly or be able to be open about myself in this complete manner," Harris said.
Harris told Wire he didn't consider coming out while playing in the NFL and that the decision took a toll on him.
"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'd like to think that I would find the strength, or find the fortitude or the grace to make the hard decision," Harris said. "You want to escape this despair, this turmoil. Maybe your mind goes to dark places sometimes, but I would just say I'm happy today. I'm glad I didn't actually ... that those were just ideas, that I didn't act on any of those things and it does, you know, it does get better."
On the heels of CBSSports.com's report last week stating an NFL player is "strongly considering" coming out as gay, NFL Players Association president Domonique Foxworth revealed the union has been working hard to prepare players for the announcement when it does come.
On Super Bowl XLVII Media Day two months ago, 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver created a media storm when he made it clear he would not welcome a gay teammate.
"I don't do the gay guys. I don't do that," Culliver told Artie Lange on his radio show.
"We don't have any gay guys on the team," Culliver said. "They gotta get up outta here if they do. Can't be with that sweet stuff."
Culliver apologized for his comments soon after and pledged "to learn and grow from this experience." In March, Culliver spent part of the day at The Trevor Project, an organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.
When asked why he is talking now about being gay, Harris said he wants to help athletes who might feel isolated or confused by their sexuality.
"I want people, whether they're gay athletes or athletes who are still in the closet, or youths who aren't quite sure what their sexuality is, to realize that not only is that not unique, but those feelings are common feelings," he said. "Don't feel incredibly alone in having these questions."