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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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The latest on national protests. Plus, what went wrong in Yemen rescue attempt?

June 25th, 2013
06:27 PM ET

The Lead Read: NFL player, author Chris Kluwe on gay rights in pro sports

Chris Kluwe is a record-breaking NFL punter and now the author of "Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies: On Myths, Morons, Free Speech, Football, and Assorted Absurdities," a compilation of essays and letters.

The book's title comes from an open letter Kluwe wrote in response to Maryland state delegate Emmett Burns, who criticized an NFL player for supporting same-sex marriage.

After Kluwe's father protested the amount of profanity in the original letter, the NFL player posted another on his blog, swapping out the cusses for over-the-top euphemisms, like beautifully unique sparkle pony.

"It just arose from somewhere in a probably dank and recessed corner of my mind, and I went with it, it flowed well," said Kluwe of his "sparkle pony" label.

Several pieces in the book touch upon gay marriage, including a letter to the Supreme Court justices.

Kluwe wrote, "If you decide to overturn the appeal of Prop 8 ... if you decide to uphold the tenets of DOMA, a lot of professional athletes will take their cues from that, and it will cause a ripple effect as even more people follow their role models, their leaders, their heroes."

The general attitude of professional athletes to same-sex marriage, said Kluwe, is that "they don't care that much."

"They're younger guys, they've been raised in a society that's becoming more, and more tolerant, and they don't understand why other people are being forced to live their life under someone else's rule," said Kluwe.

"There are professional athletes who don't get it, just like there are people in society who don't get it, but I'd say the vast majority of professional athletes are pretty much live and let live," said Kluwe. "If you let them go about their business, they're perfectly happy to let you go about yours."

Yet there are so few openly gay and lesbian athletes.

"The fact is that, until someone takes that first step, you know until someone like Jason Collins comes out and shows that you can still play your sport and be openly gay, it's very hard for other people to risk losing that career," said Kluwe.

Jason Collins previously played with the NBA's Boston Celtics, and now the Washington Wizards this season. In April, he disclosed that he is gay, making him the first active openly gay male athlete in the four major American pro team sports.

"In football, the general average career is 3 1/2 years. And you're talking about millions of dollars’ worth of opportunity. And it can be very hard to, you know as a gay person, to say, 'I'm going to risk losing all of that, because I don't have to. I can hide myself for those 3 1/2 years, and then afterwards live my life,' you know, and that's a tough decision to make," said Kluwe.


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