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Michael Strahan has now scaled to the top of a second career, successfully transitioning from NFL star to hit talk show co-host. Already a Super Bowl champion, he was on Wednesday named one of THR‘s 35 Most Powerful People in Media, putting him in the unique position of being able to speak out on both sports news and social issues with equal expertise.
In a conversation with The Hollywood Reporter at the Four Seasons party that honored power listers, Strahan raved about his new job, saying he loves it more than he even expected, and also commented on two of the biggest football stories of recent vintage.
Several current NFL stars, including Chris Kluwe and Brendon Ayenbadejo have campaigned hard to create more acceptance of gay rights in the league and locker rooms that are often slow to catch on to certain social progressions. The NHL announced on Thursday that it was embarking on an initiative to prove its gay-friendly credentials and make the league a welcoming place for a player should he choose to come out, and Strahan is confident that at some point, a gay player would be accepted in the locker room.
PHOTOS: THR’s 35 Most Powerful People in Media Mingle at New York Soiree
“I think eventually there will be [a gay player in the league],” he told THR. “A lot of guys now are speaking up. I did a same sex marriage equality ad with my fiancee. I know Steve Tisch, the owner of the Giants did it as well, Sean Avery has done it as well. I think society is a lot more accepting, got more accepting and at some point you have to realize what you do for a living doesn’t define who you are as a person, and if you can play football, your job shouldn’t be affected by your sexual preference.”
Also at question is how a football locker room might treat Manti Te’o, the Notre Dame star famously cuckolded into thinking he was dating someone — with whom he had only interacted online and on the phone — that did not actually exist.
“They’ll accept him. Of course they’ll make fun of him — God, you gotta make fun of him, I’ll make fun of him! — but he just has to learn to just enjoy it and go along with it and have fun with it,” Strahan said, “because the guys ultimately want to win and they want to see you be a success because it helps the team and helps them.”
STORY: Manti Te’o Denies Gay Rumors, Expresses Regrets During Katie Couric Interview
As for where Te’o will land in this month’s NFL draft, Strahan was bullish on his prospects.
“I think he’ll get drafted in the first round, is my feeling, and I think because of everything he’s gone through, it probably will make him stronger and better and make him want to prove that he’s more than they’re trying to break him down to be,” he offered. “It could be a blessing in disguise for him. I wish him the best. I hate to see a young guy like that go through things like this because he’s even played one down.”
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