Wednesday, July 13, 2011
NFL legend Michael Irvin a passionate Out advocate for gay rights, marriage equality
Irvin, 45, learned about gay people early in life, when as a youngster he saw his older brother Vaughn walking from the family home wearing women’s clothing.
Irvin couldn’t believe his eyes. He turned to his father. “My dad looked back at me and said, ‘Yes, that’s your brother. And you love your brother,’” Zeigler writes in Out.
Zeigler, who co-founded the website Outsports.com, said he became a frequent guest on Irvin’s radio program, now on WQAM 560 in Miami, about three years ago.
“Michael and I became friends,” Zeigler told The Miami Herald on Tuesday. “Over time, he started revealing things and told me about his brother a few years ago, in a hush-hush way. As friends.”
A few months ago, Irvin mention on the program, “in passing,” that his late brother was gay, Zeigler said.
Zeigler suggested that he write a full profile of Irvin’s experience with his brother, who died in 2006 of stomach cancer at age 49.
“He said absolutely. It’s time to talk about my brother,” Zeigler recalled.
Irvin, the 15th of 17 children, told Zeigler that he idolized Vaughn. “He was the smartest, most charismatic man I’d ever seen in my life,” said Irvin, a football star at the University of Miami before joining the Dallas Cowboys.
As a younger man, Irvin was uncomfortable talking about Vaughn. He feared that anyone would think he was gay, too.
Irvin's comfort level has evolved. As a younger man, he never would have had the guts to appear on a show like Dancing With the Stars, he told Zeigler.
And he certainly wouldn’t have posed provocatively for a gay magazine like Out.
“Michael, as soon as he showed up at the photo shoot, he immediately put on the shoulder pads and took off his shirt. Nobody asked him,” Zeigler said. “I said you don’t have to do this. He said this is what I want I do. He’s pulling down his pants, his underwear is showing. He just ate it up. He loved it.”
Now, Irvin says he supports marriage equality for same-sex couples, Zeigler said. “He’s truly committed to this cause. He really wants people to live their lives.”
Irvin’s tumultuous personal life, including a 1996 arrest for cocaine possession and being accused several times of sexual assault, helped bring him around, Zeigler said.
“One of the things he said to me in the past was going through all the trouble, including legal trouble, he can’t condemn other people,” Zeigler said. “No matter who you are, he doesn’t feel he is in a position to condemn anybody. As a Christian, he feels its unchristian to do it.”