Long-time NFL player Tony Casillas, has spoken out to say that he played with gay American footballers in the past, and that he knew they were gay at the time.

The former defensive lineman spoke to say that, during his long career, he had been well aware of the fact that he was playing with gay teammates.

Speaking to 105.3FM the Fan, said: “I know that I played with homosexual players… and I knew this when I was playing.”

A two-time Super Bowl Champion, Casillas has played twelve NFL seasons with the Dallas Cowboys and the Atlanta Falcons.

The issue of openly gay players in major US team sport is particularly poignant of late, as last week NBA star Jason Collins came out as gay, and said he intended to continue playing.

Collins last Monday spoke about his sexuality, confirming he is gay in an article in Sports Illustrated magazine. He said: “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.

Fellow former NFL player and Super Bowl Champion LeRoy Butler, who had an appearance at a Wisconsin church cancelled over a congratulatory tweet to Collins, said he would not take back the tweet because of kids looking up to him.

Atlanta Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel, said he had “nothing but respect” for people such as Jason Collins, and the discussion stemming from his coming out, but asked why people felt they had to “flaunt it” like that.

Since coming out, Collins has revealed that he had been making a quiet statement of solidarity with the gay community, every time he stepped out onto the court, by wearing a 98 jersey, in memorial of murdered Wyoming student Matthew Shepard. 

Collins has received thousands of messages of support, including from President Barack Obama, and First Lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton, his teammates, coaches, the Commissioner of the NBA, and countless others.

NFL player and human rights campaigner Chris Kluwe, announced yesterday that he has been dropped by the Minnesota Vikings, saying that “making people aware of an issue that is causing children to commit suicide is more important than kicking a leather ball.”