Ex-NFL player and LGBT activist Wade Davis discusses his advocacy work and his thoughts on the Season 2 finale of Let's Stay Together.
BET.com: One of the situations in the Let’s Stay Together season finale involves Darkanian, an NFL player who dates a woman in order to hide his homosexuality from the public. He lets her stay in his apartment, he snuggles with her — but they don’t get much further than that. Have you ever been in a situation like this?
Wade Davis: I existed in that world a very long time. I can remember going to clubs and coming back with young ladies and we would just sit in my room. We would make out a little bit, we would talk, but I would never have sex with them. A lot of the reason was that I didn’t want to create this experience where they thought there was going to be something more that happened after that. And typically I would only get their phone numbers and I wouldn’t give them mine, and I would never call. I thought that was just the best way for me to be respectful of them as women.
BET.com: Do you still keep in contact with any of these women?
WD: No. I’m friends with some high school and college friends who are females, who I kind of dated off and on, but anything past that, no.
BET.com: I read an article recently by a sports publicist that discussed NFL players meeting women. He stated that it’s usually the females that initiate it. As someone from a Christian background, who grew up in Middle America, how was it dealing with that type of attention in the league, and having this background as well?
WD: I won’t lie to you — initially I reveled in it. I loved it. It’s just one of those things where you’re like ‘Wow, I’m getting all this attention from all these females.’ Now, granted, I wasn’t going to do anything with it, but it just felt good to be wanted. After about a week or two you realize it doesn’t have anything to do with you, it only has to do with the fact that you play a sport. But coming from my Christian background and the way I was raised, plus I also had three sisters, I never wanted to be disrespectful. I never wanted any woman to feel as if she were an actual object. So, I really just tried to have conversations to really get to know them as much as I could and then offer them clues or hints that I was gay, actually. Like little bitty things like maybe making comments on their shoes, which is very stereotypical of what gay men do, actually. But I tried to offer them clues or hints that I don’t want anything from them physically.
BET.com: In the Let’s Stay Together season finale, the huge revelation is that Darkanian, a professional football player, who has been platonically dating Crystal, has a boyfriend. The issue then becomes does she want to continue this façade for him?
WD: I think she feels empowered enough to say no — that she’s not going to be used as a beard, that he needs to live in his own truth. And she needs to also tell him that if he does decide to come out, she’ll be there for him, but she’s not going to disempower herself.
BET.com: Since your NFL and European league career ended, you’ve contributed to a lot of LGBT causes. What led you to public service?
WD: So, initially, when I joined the New York Gay Flag Football League, I had a good friend named Paul. And Paul used to always tell me how I inspired him, you know, the work that I was doing and how patient I was, how I didn’t let my quote-unquote stardom affect how I interacted with the guys in the league and in a way I was kind of a hero. And I started thinking, “Wow, is there more that I can do with my passion for LGBTQ youth?” So I started to volunteer for GLSEN [an organization for students, parents and teachers seeking to end discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender students in K-12 schools] and I was invited to join their sports advisory board. And then from there just doing some speaking engagements and seeing the impact that my words and my voice have, I said, “You know what? I need to do more.” So I started to volunteer at organizations like GMAD [Gay Men of African Descent] and GMHC [Gay Men’s Health Crisis]. And then I wanted to volunteer at the nonprofit Hetrick-Martin Institute for Gay and Lesbian Youth — the executive director told me there was a position open and maybe I should apply for it, if this is what my passion is. And lo and behold, I applied for the job, he offered it to me and I have never been happier. Even though playing in the NFL was a great time, I’ve never been happier since I’ve been working at Hetrick-Martin.
Interview conducted in April 2012.