Kwame Harris

Ex-49er Harris wishes he had come out during career

Published: Saturday, Mar. 30, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Monday, Apr. 1, 2013 - 7:24 am

Former 49ers offensive tackle Kwame Harris said he wished he had had the strength to be the first gay player to come out during his playing career, but at the time he didn't see being gay and playing in the NFL as "compatible."

"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 kind of make the hard decisions," Harris told CNN on Friday morning.

Harris, 31, was the 49ers' first-round draft pick in 2003, and he played for the team through 2007. The Raiders signed him in 2008 and cut him after the season. He has been out of football since.

His sexual orientation was revealed last month when he was charged with assaulting an ex-boyfriend.

Harris was interviewed by ex-Stanford teammate Coy Wire at the school's stadium. Harris told Wire that he loved playing football but that the "cost was great" because he felt the sport didn't allow him to speak freely about his true identity. Wire, meanwhile, said he and his Stanford teammates might have assumed Harris was gay, "but we didn't really care."

The topic of gay players in the NFL exploded at the Super Bowl last month when 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver said they wouldn't be welcome in the 49ers' locker room. He has since apologized for the remarks and has pursued becoming a volunteer with The Trevor Project, which provides crisis and suicide intervention for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youths.

Meanwhile, CBS Sports reported this week that a gay player currently in the NFL is contemplating coming out. No player in any of the nation's four major sports has revealed he is gay during his career.

Asked last month about playing alongside Harris on the 49ers, long snapper Brian Jennings had the same reaction as Wire.

"I was friends with Kwame when he was here," Jennings said. "I think he did everything he could to play well. I enjoyed hanging out with him. He cared about his teammates, he cared about the game. It was hard for him to fulfill his first-round status. But it wasn't from lack of trying. And it wasn't for lack of caring about the game or caring about his teammates."

Read Matthew Barrows' blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers and listen for his reports Tuesdays on ESPN Radio 1320. Follow him on Twitter @mattbarrows.

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