Kerry Rhodes, considered one of the NFL’s top safeties in 2012 with the Arizona Cardinals, could not find a team that would sign him last season. He insists that was not because a website published a photo of Rhodes and his male assistant and intimated that they were lovers.
That photo heightened speculation that Rhodes was gay. But he says the innuendo about his sexual orientation are not at the heart of his unemployment.
“I don’t think I was blacklisted,” Rhodes told ESPN New York. “Especially with the NFL, I don’t think they would do that. To me, it was a product of me wanting to do other things and not finding the right opportunity.
“I emphatically said no once [to the rumor that he’s gay] and that’s all I need to say, and people who know me know that’s definitely not the case. To me, I’m definitely not and I can’t control what people think, so I move on.”
Rhodes’ case is particularly interesting because Michael Sam two weeks ago announced he was gay. The Missouri linebacker is expected to be selected in the upcoming NFL Draft, which would make him the first openly gay NFL player. By Pro Football Focus metrics, Rhodes was ranked as the fourth-best safety in the league in 2012, but he says he might have been too expensive to sign for last season.
Arizona, where he played the last three years of his career after a four-year stint with the New York Jets, offered him a job at the end of the 2012 season, but Rhodes wasn’t willing to play for less than he thought he was worth.
But he wants to return to the league.
“Every option for me is open,” Rhodes said. “It’s about me staying ready to go, I would probably have to take a deal right now, but if an opportunity that’s good for them and also good for me I would entertain it and want to come back and play. I still love football and it’s still a part of me. That’s not closed. But I’m not going to go into a situation where it’s not beneficial to myself. Because with the things I’m doing now, I feel pretty comfortable and confident. It’s just what works best. But definitely haven’t closed that door yet.”