Jonathan Vilma says he would be 'A-OK' with an openly gay teammate

New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma ignited some controversy for his remarks to the NFL Network two weeks ago when he told Andrea Kremer he didn't think an openly gay teammate would be accepted in the locker room.

The topic came back up this week after NFL draft prospect Michael Sam's admission that he was gay. He is the first prospective player in NFL history to publicly come out and also the first in the other three major U.S. men's sports, baseball, basketball and hockey.

Sam, a former Missouri defensive lineman and the 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the year, told multiple news outlets Sunday he is an "openly proud gay man."

Vilma, who made the comments before Sam's announcement, told the NFL Network:

"I think that he would not be accepted as much as we think he would be accepted," Vilma told NFL Network. "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?"

Sam's admission has raised the question again as to whether the NFL is ready for its first openly gay player. Vilma went on "AC360" on Monday night to talk about the issue and clarify his initial comments, admitting that they were poorly worded.

"It was a poor illustration of the example I was trying to give on the context, so I do apologize for that," Vilma said. "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 said the "resistance" comes with the dynamics of having 53 different men in the locker room, many who come from different backgrounds. 

"You have people that can be more outgoing, more open-minded. You have people that are a little more close-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 have more players like Michael Sam coming out and saying that they're gay, the transition will be a lot smoother."

Vilma clarified his comment about showering with an openly gay teammate and said he didn't have any concerns about it. He said his comment to the NFL Network was another poor example he was trying to make.

"Again, the point I was trying to make or the context I was trying to take it in is that I've never been put in that situation, no player in the NFL has been put in that situation, so it's not as simple as anyone saying, well, there's nothing wrong with it," he said. "I don't see anything wrong with it. You have other players that may, you have other players that may not. 

"I don't know and the players don't know because it's the first time that you have a Michael Sam, who will by all accounts be drafted, openly gay, come into a locker room. No one in the NFL in the past however many years has experienced this before so this is all new for everybody, this is new territory."

Vilma has experienced heavy criticism for other comments, including tweets he made during the 2011 season. At the time, he said on Twitter that "Grown men should NOT hav female tendencies. Period."

A woman responded to Vilma on Twitter with, "that's a little sexist/homophobic, don't you think? #thinkbeforeyoutweet."

He responded: "hey....SHUTUP."

Vilma later tweeted, "So of course the homosexual men get sensitive to my tweet and respond all ticked off. RELAX I was not referring to u guys."

Vilma had changed his tune by Monday night.

"As long as he can play football, I'm A-OK with it," he said Monday. "It doesn't bother me at all."

What would Vilma, a former defensive captain who will become a free agent March 11, say to his teammates if Sam was drafted by the Saints?

"There's really nothing to say," he said. "The first thing that matters is, can he play football?"

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