Kwame Harris said it was nearly impossible to admit he was gay while playing offensive tackle for the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders.
After an assault charge in January outed the former NFL player, he opened up to CNN Friday in an exclusive interview, saying his homosexuality and pro sports were contradictory.
“I’m gay and I’m a former athlete and I think I’m a pretty normal guy,” he told CNN’s Coy Wire, who played at Stanford with Harris.
But playing in a male-dominated pro sports league like the NFL forced him to keep secrets from his teammates.
In fact, he said his mind went “to dark places,” although never admitted during the interview to suicide attempts.
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“I want people, whether gay athletes, athletes still in the closet, or youths who are not sure what their sexuality is, to know those are common feelings,” Harris said. “Don’t feel alone in having them.”
Harris was San Fran’s first-round draft choice coming out of Stanford University in 2003, Sports Illustrated reported.
He played six seasons, five with San Francisco and one with Oakland, before retiring from pro football in 2010 after a brief stint with the UFL.
He was outed after a confrontation with an ex-boyfriend around the time of the Super Bowl this year.
The six-foot-seven, 240-pound Harris pinned his ex-boyfriend against a wall and hit him in the face and head.
The beating was severe enough that doctors inserted a metal plate into the victim’s face. He pleaded not guilty and will go to trial in April.
During the CNN interview, Harris said he wished things could’ve been different during his playing days.
“Now when I look back in hindsight, if I could’ve done it differently,” Harris said, “I would like to think that I would find the strength or find the fortitude or the grace to, kind of, make the hard decision.”