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Michael Irvin backs gay rights in "Out" magazine

Michael Irvin appears on the cover of Out Magazine.
Out Magazine
Michael Irvin
Michael Irvin appears on the cover of Out Magazine.
Out Magazine

Other than lockouts, the hottest topic dominating sports headlines this year could very well be a topic long deemed taboo in locker rooms: gay rights. Athletes from every major sport have spoken out for and against equal rights for gays.

On one side, we've seen former Super Bowl hero David Tyree saying gay marriage "will be the beginning of our country sliding toward, it's a strong word, but anarchy."

On the other side, we've seen Sean Avery and other pro athletes do public service announcements supporting gay marriage.

On one side, we've heard Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson dismissing a radio caller with a homophobic slur.

And now, on the other side, we have probably the most high-profile athlete yet to support gay rights.

Former Cowboys star and Hall of Famer Michael Irvin appears shirtless on the cover of Out - the most widely read gay magazine in the world - to lend his support to gay rights.

In the article, Irvin recounts how he discovered his brother Vaughn was gay in the 70s when he found him wearing women's clothing. (Vaughn died of cancer in 2006). Irvin says that revelation fueled homophobic thoughts and had a negative impact on his relationship with women.

"And through it all we realized maybe some of the issues I've had with so many women, just bringing women around so everybody can see, maybe that's the residual of the fear I had that if my brother is wearing ladies' clothes, am I going to be doing that? Is it genetic?" Irvin told the magazine. "I'm certainly not making excuses for my bad decisions. But I had to dive inside of me to find out why am I making these decisions, and that came up."

Irvin credits his father with helping him accept his brother's sexual orientation and says that African-Americans should support marriage equality.

"I don't see how any African-American, with any inkling of history, can say that you don't have the right to live your life how you want to live your life," he said, according to the magazine. "No one should be telling you who you should love, no one should be telling you who you should be spending the rest of your life with. When we start talking about equality, and everybody being treated equally, I don't want to know an African-American who will say everybody doesn't deserve equality."

CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman: Thank you, Michael Irvin

Only a handful of gay NFL players have disclosed their sexual orientation - all of them after their playing days were over. Irvin told Out magazine that he would support any athlete who wants to come out.

"If anyone comes out in those top four major sports, I will absolutely support him. ... When a guy steps up and says, 'This is who I am,' I guarantee you I'll give him 100 percent support," Irvin said.

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    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com