LGBTQ API Athletes: Esera Tuaolo

 

Esera Tavai Tuaolo was a American professional football player and played defensive tackle in the NFL for 10 Years. He played for Oregon State University and was named the best defensive lineman in Pac-10 in 1989; then, he went on to have a successful career playing for five NFL teams. He played for the Green Bay Packers in 1991 to 1992, the Minnesota Vikings from 1992 to 1996, the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1997, Atlanta Falcons in 1998, and Carolina Panthers in 1999.  He retired in 2000 and it was two years later that he finally decided to come out as gay. Born in 1968, Tuaolo is of Samoan ancestry from Honolulu, Hawaii. His mother raised him and his sibling alone, and it was his dedication to help her have a better life through his NFL career that he was able to fight through his depression during his football career.

In Tuaolo’s book Alone in the Trenches, he describes the fear he lived with every time he made a big play on screen. He was afraid people he knew in his private life would recognize him and out him. Tuaolo knew that if it became public that he is gay his NFL career would end. Throughout his years in the sport, he had to live secretly knowing that his teammates would not accept him and teams would not sign him on because of his being a gay man in the country’s most macho sport.

After retiring, he launched Hate Is Wrong, an organization aiming to fight against bullying among youth and “foster diversity in sports.” Tuaolo is an advocate for diversifying the perceptions of LGBT people in sports and changing NFL culture. For him and people like him, there is a long way to go so that people would not have to feel that it is only after they retire from the NFL that it is safe to come out. For Super Bowl 2018, Tuaolo held an Inclusion party to push his message. In 2013, NQAPIA also honored him with a Community Catalyst Award.