Metrofocus: June 1, 2022

The white supremacist shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo was the latest example of a broad and troubling trend of rising extremism in New York State, which also saw more antisemitic incidents take place than any other state in the country last year.  This is according to a new report issued today by the Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism and the Community Security Initiative. The report titled, “Hate in the Empire State: Extremism & Antisemitism in New York,” details a disturbing snapshot of increasing extremism across New York, bolstered in part by widespread campaigns of disinformation and conspiracy theories.  Scott Richman, the New York/New Jersey Regional Director of the ADL, joins us as part of our Exploring Hate initiative to break down this report and share what we can do to reverse these trends.

For years, Ryan O’Callaghan used football as his cover to keep the world from learning he was gay. Now, the former NFL offensive tackle is sharing his remarkable journey to self-acceptance in his memoir, “My Life on the Line: How the NFL Damn Near Killed Me and Ended Up Saving My Life.”

TRANSCRIPT

> TONIGHT, A SHOCKING NEW REPORT SHOWS THAT RACE AND ANTI-SEMITIC HATE CRIMES IN NEW YORK CONTINUE TO RISE TO DANGEROUS LEVELS.

AND A FORMER NFL PLAYER IS BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS BY SHARING HIS JOURNEY OF ACCEPTING HIS OWN SEXUALITY.

THAT AS 'METROFOCUS' STARTS RIGHT NOW.

♪♪

> THIS IS 'METROFOCUS,' WITH RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD AND JENNA FLANAGAN.

> 'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM, THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION.

AND BY --

> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS,' I'M JACK FORD.

NEW YORK STATE HAD MORE ANTI-SEMITIC INCIDENTS OF HATE THIS PAST YEAR THAN ANY OTHER STATE IN THE NATION.

THAT, ACCORDING TO A NEW REPORT BY THE ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE TITLED 'HATE IN THE EMPIRE STATE: EXTREMISM AND ANTI-SEMITISM IN NEW YORK.'

THE REPORT SHOWS THAT HATE CRIMES HAVE INCREASED AGAINST ALL MINORITY GROUPS, BOTH IN UPSTATE NEW YORK, LIKE PAINFULLY IN BUFFALO WHERE WE WITNESSED RACIST CONSPIRACY THEORIES DIRECTLY LEADING TO THAT MASS SHOOTING, AND IN NEW YORK CITY, WHERE HATE CRIMES WENT UP A STAGGERING 196% FROM 2020 TO 2021.

JOINING US NOW TO TALK ABOUT THESE DISTURBING TRENDS AND RECOMMENDATIONS ABOUT WHAT WE CAN DO TO HOPEFULLY REVERSE THEM IS SCOTT RICHMAN, THE NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY REGIONAL DIRECTOR FOR THE ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE.

SCOTT JOINS US AS PART OF OUR EXPLORING HATE INITIATIVE, EXAMINING THE ROOTS AND RISE OF ANTI-SEMITISM, RACISM AND EXTREMISM IN AMERICA.

SCOTT, WELCOME.

THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.

THANKS SO MUCH FOR HAVING ME ON, JACK.

SO, LET'S START WITH THIS REPORT AND GIVE US A SENSE OF STRUCTURE AND CONTENT.

WHAT IS THE TIMEFRAME THAT IS INCLUDED HERE?

WHAT WAS THE FOCUS OF THE INVESTIGATION THAT LED TO THIS REPORT?

SO, THIS IS A REPORT THAT'S NOT JUST ON ANTI-SEMITISM, ADL RELEASED ITS ANNUAL AUDIT A FEW WEEKS AGO.

THIS IS DIFFERENT.

THIS IS A REPORT ON EXTREMISM AND ANTI-SEMITISM.

IT'S A BROADER LOOK AT HATE WITHIN THE STATE, IT'S NOT JUST HATE FOCUSED AGAINST JEWS, BUT HATE FOCUSED ON MANY GROUPS AND, OF COURSE, YOU KNOW, WE DON'T LIVE IN A VACUUM HERE AND WE'VE SEEN A GENERAL RISE IN HATE AGAINST -- AGAINST THE BLACK COMMUNITY, AGAINST THE LATINO COMMUNITY, AGAINST MUSLIMS, AGAINST, CERTAINLY, THE ASIAN VIOLENCE WE'VE SEEN, AND AGAINST THE LGBTQ PLUS COMMUNITY.

THESE ARE SOME OF THE COMMUNITIES THAT ARE PRIMARILY TARGETED.

SO, THE PURPOSE OF THIS REPORT WAS REALLY TO LOOK MORE BROADLY AT THIS ISSUE OF HATE IN NEW YORK STATE AND FOCUS SPECIFICALLY ON EXTREMISM FROM 2020, JANUARY 2020, TO THE END OF 2021.

LOOK AT A DISCREET TWO-YEAR PERIOD.

WHEN WE'RE TALKING ABOUT THE NOTION OF HATE INCIDENTS OR HATE CRIMES, ESPECIALLY IN THE REPORT, WHAT'S THE DEFINITION THAT'S BEING USED?

SO, LOOK, THERE A DIFFERENCE HERE BETWEEN HATE INCIDENTS AND HATE CRIMES.

REALLY IMPORTANT TO TALK ABOUT THAT.

HATE CRIMES ARE -- ARE BIAS MOTIVATED INCIDENTS THAT RISE TO THE LEVEL OF A CRIME.

SOMETHING FOR WHICH YOU WOULD NEED TO CALL THE POLICE.

SOMETHING FOR WHICH YOU CAN BE ARRESTED.

SO, A LOT OF TIMES WHAT HAPPENS ON SOCIAL MEDIA, WHAT HAPPENS ON THE STREET, SOMEBODY CALLING YOU SOMETHING HATEFUL, CALLING SOMEBODY A DIRTY JEW ON THE STREET OR, YOU KNOW, GAS THE JEWS OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT, THOSE ARE NOT HATE CRIMES, THEY ARE HATE INCIDENTS.

AND HATE CRIMES ARE NOT ALWAYS SO EASY TO PROVE, BECAUSE YOU NEED TO PROVE BIAS MOTIVATION.

YOU NEED TO SHOW THAT SOMETHING THAT THEY SAID OR SOMETHING THAT THEY DID OR SOMETHING IN THEIR SOCIAL MEDIA FEED SCHOLES THEY'RE BIASED, NOT JUST THEY TARGETED AN ASIAN PERSON, OR NOT THAT THEY JUST TARGETED AN AFRICAN AMERICAN PERSON.

IT HAS TO BE MORE THAN THAT.

NOT ALWAYS SO EASY TO PROVE A HATE CRIME.

NEVERTHELESS, WE'VE SEEN, AND THIS REPORT SHOWS, THAT FROM 2020 TO 2021, HATE CRIMES DOUBLED IN NEW YORK, WHICH IS VERY, VERY DISTURBING.

AND THAT'S ACTUALLY COMING FROM THE NYPD DATA, NEW YORK POLICE DEPARTMENT DATA.

AND THAT THE GROUPS THAT PRIMARILY WERE TARGETED WERE THE LGBTQ PLUS COMMUNITY, THE AFRICAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY, THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY, AND THE -- SORRY, THE ASIANCOMMUNITY AND THE JEWISH COMMUNITY.

LET'S FOCUS ON SOME UNDERSTANDING OF WHY THE RISE.

BECAUSE CLEARLY WE NEED TO DO SOME ANSWERS TO THAT BEFORE WE MOVE ONTO HOW DO WE REMEDY THIS.

LET ME START WITH A STATISTIC THAT I OFFERED UP IN THE BEGINNING ABOUT NEW YORK STATE HAVING MORE ANTI-SEMITIC INCIDENTS OF HATE THAN ANY OTHER STATE IN THE ENTIRE NATION.

VERY DISTURBING.

YEAH.

WHY DO WE THINK THAT'S HAPPENING?

AND I'LL TELL YOU, AS THE DIRECTOR OF ALD'S OFFICE COVERING NEW YORK, AND WE HAVE 25 OFFICES AND I'M THE DIRECTOR FOR NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY, NEW YORK IS NUMBER ONE, NEW JERSEY IS NUMBER TWO.

DOES THAT SURPRISE YOU?

IN YOUR FUNCTION, AND WE HEAR STORIES ALL THE TIME, SADLY, ON THE NEWS.

WHEN YOU SAW THAT STATISTIC, MORE THAN ANY OTHER STATE IN THE NATION, DID THAT SURPRISE YOU?

SO, YOU KNOW, I WILL SAY THAT IT SURPRISES ME FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF, YOU KNOW, I LIKE TO THINK WE LIVE IN A DIVERSE METROPOLIS, YOU KNOW, ONE THAT'S TOLERANT, BUT ON THE OTHER HAND, THERE IS A CORRELATION.

THERE IS A CORRELATION BETWEEN THE NUMBER OF JEWS AND THE NUMBER OF ANTI-SEMITIC INCIDENTS.

THERE ARE MORE JEWS IN THE NEW YORK AREA THAN ANY OTHER AREA ACROSS THE COUNTRY.

1.75 MILLION, WITH ANOTHER ALMOST 600,000 IN NEW JERSEY.

SO, IT'S NOT SO SURPRISING.

YOU DON'T NEED JEWS FOR ANTI-SEMITISM NECESSARILY, BUT WHEN YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT ATTACKS ON JEWISH INSTITUTIONS, THERE ARE MORE HERE THAN ANY OTHER PLACE.

WHEN YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT ASSAULT AGAINST JEWS, YOU KNOW, YOU DO NEED JEWS FOR THAT.

VISIBLY IDENTIFIABLE JEWS.

MANY OF THESE ATTACKS AGAINST JEWS ARE AGAINST THOSE WHO HAVE SOME SORT OF MARKER.

THEY'RE WEARING A YAMMA KA, THEY HAVE A SHIRT, PERHAPS THEY ARE WHAT SIDDIC JEWS AND ALL OF THEIR DRESS IDENTIFIES THEM AS JEWISH.

THERE IS A CORRELATION THERE, BUT THERE ARE OTHER FACTORS AT PLAY HERE.

WHAT ABOUT THE PRESENCE AND THE GROWTH OF IDENTIFIABLE HATE GROUPS IN THE NEW YORK, NEW JERSEY AREA?

WHAT DID YOU FIND?

THE REPORT LAYS OUT SEVERAL DIFFERENT TYPES OF GROUPS AND HERE WE'RE TALKING ABOUT NOT JUST ANTI-SEMITISM, BUT ABOUT EXTREMISM IN GENERAL.

YOU HAVE THE GROWTH OF WHITE SUPREMACIST GROUPS AND I WAS ON THE GROUND IN BUFFALO, I WAS ACTUALLY IN BUFFALO FOR THREE DAYS STARTING ON SATURDAY NIGHT, ALMOST IMMEDIATELY AFTER THIS MASS SHOOTING THAT HAPPENED LAST WEEK, WEEK AND A HALF AGO, AND THAT MASS SHOOTING WAS DONE BY A PERSON WHO BOUGHT INTO WHITE SUPREMACIST IDEAS, BOUGHT INTO THE GREAT REPLACEMENT THEORY.

THAT PERSON HAS NOT BEEN IDENTIFIED AS BEING PART OF A PARTICULAR GROUP, BUT THERE ARE PARTICULAR GROUPS THAT ARE WORKING IN NEW YORK STATE, LIKE THE PATRIOT FRONT, LIKE THE NEW JERSEY EUROPEAN HERITAGE ASSOCIATION, IS ACTUALLY A NEW JERSEY-BASED GROUP, BUT THEY ARE QUITE ACTIVE IN NEW YORK.

AND THE WHITE LIVES MATTER MOVEMENT.

SO, THOSE -- THOSE ARE THE PRINCIPLE WHITE SUPREMACIST GROUPS, BUT IT'S NOT JUST WHITE SUPREMACIST GROUPS THAT WE ARE CONCERNED ABOUT.

IT'S ALSO THE NATIONALIST OR THE -- LET'S CALL THEM THE RIGHT WING VIOLENT GROUPS, OR MILITIA GROUPS, LIKE THE PROUD BOYS.

WE'VE HEARD A LOT ABOUT THE PROUD BOYS.

AND THE OATH KEEPERS.

PROUD BOYS AND OATH KEEPERS ARE TWO BROWNS ASSOCIATED WITH THE JANUARY 6th INSURRECTION.

QUITE ACTIVE HERE IN NEW YORK.

YOU HAVE THE NEW YORK WATCHMEN, WHO ARE ACTIVE IN WESTERN NEW YORK, WHERE THE SHOOTING TOOK PLACE IN BUFFALO.

SO, YOU KNOW, QUITE A NUMBER OF GROUPS.

PLUS, YOU HAVE GROUPS THAT ARE NOT ON THE FAR RIGHT.

YOU HAVE SOME ISLAMIST GROUPS, YOU HAVE THE NATION OF ISLAM, WHO ARE EXTREMIST GROUPS WHO HAVE BEEN RESPONSIBLE FOR CARRYING OUT ACTS.

WE'RE ALSO VERY CONCERNED ABOUT THAT.

WHAT DID YOU FIND WITH REGARD TO THE ROLE OF SOCIAL MEDIA?

YOU KNOW, WE OFTEN HEAR THE EXPRESSION, SOCIAL MEDIA IS WONDERFUL, EXCEPT WHEN IT ISN'T.

THE ROLE OF SOCIAL MEDIA OF FANNING THE FLAMES OF HATRED.

SOCIAL MEDIA IS A PROBLEM.

IT HAS A LOT OF BENEFITS.

IT GIVES PEOPLE A VOICE.

IT MAKES US, YOU KNOW, MUCH MORE DEMOCRATIC WORLD, WHERE PEOPLE HAVE THAT VOICE, BUT THE PROBLEM IS, IT ALSO GIVES HATERS A VOICE.

AND IT'S BEEN A HUGE DRIVER OF HATE.

WHEN WE TALK ABOUT THE RISE IN HATE OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS, AND BY THE WAY, WE'RE NOT TALKING ABOUT MANY, MANY DECADES OF A RISE IN HATE, WE'RE TALKING ABOUT PERHAPS A DECADE'S WORTH OF TIME HERE, WHERE WE'VE SEEN HATE STEADILY RISE OVER THE COURSE OF A DECADE.

AND SOCIAL MEDIA'S BEEN A BIG DRIVER OF THAT.

BECAUSE IT GIVES PEOPLE WHOLE OTHERWISE WOULD HAVE HAD THEIR VOICE MARGINALIZED.

THEY WOULD HAVE BEEN PUSHED TO THE EXTREMES.

IT GIVES THEM A PLATFORM FOR GETTING THEIR HATE OUT.

I MEAN, JUST THINK ABOUT IT.

IF SOMEBODY IN 1995 WANTED TO GET THEIR VOICE OUT, THEY WOULD HAVE NEEDED TO HAVE APPROACHED A TELEVISION STATION, A RADIO STATION, A NEWSPAPER.

AND THOSE ENTITIES WOULD HAVE INVARIABLY SAID, NO, THIS DOES NOT FIT WITH OUR VALUES, YOU CANNOT PUT YOUR VOICE ON OUR RADIO STATION, TELEVISION STATION, OR IN OUR NEWSPAPER.

AND THAT'S TRADITIONALLY THE WAY THAT HATE IS CONTROLLED.

CIVIL SOCIETY PUSHES IT TO THE MARGINS.

BUT WHAT HAPPENS WITH SOCIAL MEDIA IS THAT THEY HAVE PLATFORMS.

THEY DON'T NEED TO ASK ANYBODY.

AND SOME OF THOSE PLATFORMS, THANKS IN PART TO THE WORK OF ADL, NOW HAVE WHAT WE CALL CONTENT MODERATION POLICIES, POLICIES THAT SAY, NO, THERE ARE LIMITS.

THERE ARE LIMITS TO WHAT YOU CAN DO, THE HATE THAT YOU CAN PUT ON OUR SITE.

WELL, THE PROBLEM WITH THAT IS, FIRST OF ALL, THEY NEED TO -- THEY NEED TO CONTROL THAT, THEY NEED TO BE ON TOP OF THAT.

ADL'S PLAYED A ROLE IN SAYING TO FACEBOOK AND SNAPCHAT AND INSTAGRAM AND TWITTER AND TIKTOK THAT, YOU HAVE THESE POLICIES BUT YOU'RE NOT ABIDING BY ALL OF THEM.

WE PUT OUT A REPORT CARD VERY FREQUENTLY ON HOW WELL SOCIAL MEDIA COMPANIES ARE DOING THAT.

BUT YOU KNOW, THE OTHER PROBLEM WITH THAT IS THAT THERE ARE -- THERE ARE SITES LIKE TELEGRAM AND GAB AND PARLOR THAT DON'T HAVE CONTENT MODERATION POLICIES, SO YOU SEE MANY OF THESE EXTREMISTS GRAVITATE TOLL THOSE SITES.

WE SAW THAT WITH THE SHOOTER IN BUFFALO, THAT HE WAS ON DISCORD, THAT HE PUT THE -- YOU COULD FIND VIDEO OF HIM DOING THIS ATTACK ON THOSE FAR RIGHT SITES.

AS YOU SAID --

STILL CIRCULATING AROUND.

THE MARGINS IN SOME WAYS DON'T EXIST ANYMORE.

A MINUTE AND A HALF LEFT.

I KNOW THIS REPORT -- PEOPLE SHOULD READ IT.

IT'S IMPORTANT TO READ IT.

AND THERE'S A SECTION ON RECOMMENDATIONS.

WE DON'T HAVE TIME TO TALK ABOUT ALL OF THEM, BUT IN THE MINUTE THAT WE HAVE, GIVE ME SOME HIGHLIGHTS OF RECOMMENDATIONS THAT ARE COMING OUT OF THIS REPORT.

YEAH, THERE ARE QUITE A NUMBER OF RECOMMENDATIONS, BUT ONE OF THEM IS TO FORM AN ANTI-SEMITISM COMMISSION AT THE STATE LEVEL.

VERY, VERY IMPORTANT.

TO INCREASE IS FUNDING FOR NONPROFIT SECURITY, TO DOUBLE IT FROM 25 MILLION TO 50 MILLION.

TO FIND A WAY TO REPORT BETTER THE HATE CRIMES THAT ARE HAPPENING AND TO CREATE AN ENTITY WITHIN THE ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE TO DO THAT.

SO, YOU KNOW, THERE ARE MANY CONSTRUCTIVE WAYS TO ATTACK HATE, BUT I WANT TO SAY, YOU KNOW, IN ADDITION TO ALL OF THOSE, THERE ARE MANY FAR-REACHING AND FUTURE PROACTIVE KINDS OF WAYS.

ANTI-BIAS PROGRAM, ANTI-BULLYING PROGRAMS IN OUR SCHOOLS.

INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT.

HOLOCAUST EDUCATION PROGRAMS IN OUR SCHOOLS.

THESE WILL LOOK FORWARD TO A FUTURE WHERE PEOPLE RESPECT ONE ANOTHER, WHERE PEOPLE CELEBRATE DIVERSITY.

AND THINGS THAT WE CAN ALL DO AND WE CAN ALL ENGAGE IN.

ABSOLUTELY.

SCOTT RICHMAN, AGAIN, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

THE REPORT IS TITLED 'HATE IN THE EMPIRE STATE: EXTREMISM AND ANTI-RECEIVETISM IN NEW YORK'. SCOTT, BE WELL.

TAKE CARE NOW.

THANK YOU.

> IN THE 100-YEAR HISTORY OF THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE, NO OPENLY GAY OR BISEXUAL MEMBER OF AN NFL TEAM HAS EVER PLAYED A SINGLE DOWN DURING THE REGULAR SEASON.

FORMER PROLINEMAN RYAN O'CALLAGHAN KNOWS THIS ISSUE BETTER THAN ANYONE, BECAUSE FOR YEARS HE USED FOOTBALL TO KEEP HIS FAMILY AND FRIENDS FROM LEARNING HE WAS GAY.

IN FACT, O'CALLAGHAN WAS SO COMMITTED TO KEEPING HIS SECRET HIDDEN THAT HE CAME UP WITH A PLAN.

ONCE HIS PLAYING DAYS WERE OVER, HE GRABBED THE FIRST GUN HE EVER OWN AND SHOOT HIMSELF.

THANKINGFULLY, HE DECIDED THAT LIFE WAS BETTER THAN DEATH.

AND WITH HELP FROM A TEAM PSYCHOLOGIST, HE FINALLY CAME OUT.

RYAN O'CALLAGHAN'S REMARKABLE JOURNEY TO ACEPTANCE IS NOW THE FOCUS OF A NEW BOOK, 'MY LIFE ON THE LINE: HOW THE NFL DAMN NEAR KILLED ME AND ENDED UP SAVING MY LIFE.'

HE JOINS US NOW.

THANK YOU FOR JOINING US TODAY.

THANK YOU GUYS SO MUCH FOR HAVING ME ON.

WHAT WAS IT THAT MADE YOU THINK THAT SUICIDE WAS A BETTER OPTION THAN LIVING AS A GAY MAN?

YEAH, GROWING UP IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA, IN A VERY CONSERVATIVE AREA, WITH VERY CONSERVATIVE FAMILY, YOU KNOW, ALL I EVER HEARD WERE NEGATIVE THINGS ABOUT GAY PEOPLE, AND, YOU KNOW, AS A CHILD, HEARING WORDS OUT OF PEOPLE'S MOUTHS THAT YOU LOVE AND LOOK UP TO, YOU TAKE THOSE TO HEART.

AND YOU THINK THAT THEY WOULD FEEL THE SAME THING ABOUT YOU.

SO, FROM A YOUNG AGE, I NEVER BELIEVED THAT FAMILY OR FRIENDS WOULD EVER ACCEPT ME FOR MYSELF, BEING GAY.

AND THAT DROVE ME DEEP INTO THE CLOSET FROM THE VERY BEGINNING.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR FAMILY MEMBERS OF ANY KID, FOR PARENTS TO TALK ABOUT THE ISSUE?

YEAH, YOU KNOW, ME PERSONALLY, I THINK ANYTHING SHORT OF MY FAMILY WHEN I WAS YOUNG, MY PARENTS SITTING ME DOWN AND SAYING, HEY, IF YOU'RE GAY, IT'S TOTALLY FINE.

YOU KNOW, THERE'S A LOT OF LITTLE TEACHING MOMENTS THAT PARENTS CAN TAKE ADVANTAGE OF WHEN THEY TALK WITH THEIR KIDS.

YOU KNOW, A LOT OF FATHERS LIKE TO ASK THEIR SON, HEY, ARE THERE ANY GIRLS YOU'RE ATTRACTED TO?

JUST SLIP IN, HEY, IS THERE ANYONE YOU'RE ATTRACTED TO?

PEOPLE ARE STARTING TO UNDERSTAND THAT BEING GAY IS NOT A CHOICE, AND A PARENT SAYING SOMETHING TO THEIR CHILD AT A YOUNG AGE GOES A LONG WAY.

YOU WRITE EXTENSIVELY ABOUT THE FACT THAT YOU DECIDED TO BECOME A FOOTBALL PLAYER, IN EFFECT, TO COVER UP YOUR HOMOSEXUALITY, RIGHT FROM HIGH SCHOOL.

YOU KNOW, I PLAYED A LITTLE HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL AND AT LEAST BACK IN MY DAY, THE LOCKER ROOM IS FAR FROM THE PLACE WHERE YOU WOULD GO TOE HIDE, PARTICULARLY YOUR SEXUALITY, BECAUSE WE WERE ALWAYS IN EACH OTHER'S BUSINESSES, ESPECIALLY ABOUT SEX.

THAT WAS -- YOU HAD A DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE?

YEAH, SO, I NEVER THOUGHT I COULD DO A GOOD ENOUGH JOB CONVINCING A FEMALE THAT I WAS STRAIGHT, A LOT OF GUYS DO AND I DON'T KNOW HOW THEY DO IT, BUT I KNEW I WAS GOOD ENOUGH AT FOOTBALL TO USE THAT AND THE STEREOTYPES ABOUT FOOTBALL PLAYERS TO MY ADVANTAGE.

THE LOCKER ROOMS THROUGH HIGH SCHOOL AND COLLEGE WERE A BIT MORE IMMATURE, YOU KNOW, YOU HEAR A LOT MORE, THAT BIGOTED LANGUAGE, BUT ONCE I GOT TO THE NFL, I DIDN'T HEAR THAT, YOU KNOW, PEOPLE ARE MORE GROWN UP AND IT'S A JOB AND EVERYONE WAS SO FOCUSED ON DOING THEIR JOB, WHERE I FOUND THE LOCKER ROOM AS A GREAT PLACE TO HIDE.

WELL, TALK ABOUT THAT.

ONCE YOU GOT TO THE NFL, MAYBE THEY DIDN'T TALK ABOUT IT, BUT WHAT WAS THE GENERAL ATTITUDE THAT YOU FOUND IN THE LEAGUE AND AMONG YOUR TEAMMATES?

YEAH, YOU KNOW, THE LOCKER ROOM, THERE'S DIFFERENT GROUPS AND A LOT OF GUYS ARE VERY -- A LOT OF GUYS ARE YOUNG AND SO EVERYONE KIND OF HAS THEIR OWN THING GOING ON AND YOU HEAR SOME OF THE YOUNGER GUYS THAT WERE TALKING ABOUT, YOU KNOW, THE FEMALES THAT THEY KNEW AND I WOULD FIND MYSELF IN THOSE CONVERSATIONS AND I'D REHEARSE OVER AND OVER HOW TO GET OUT OF THOSE CONVERSATIONS.

I NEVER REALLY FOUND MYSELF IN A SITUATION IN A LOCKER ROOM THAT I COULDN'T EASILY BACK OUT OF.

WELL, YOU KNOW, YOU PLAYED WITH THE NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS WHEN THEY WENT TO THE SUPER BOWL.

LUCKILY DEFEATED BY THE NEW YORK GIANTS THAT YEAR THAT YOU PLAYED.

IT'S ALLEGEDLY ONE OF THE BEST TEAMS IN FOOTBALL HISTORY.

DID YOU EVER FEEL PART OF THAT, OR WAS IT ALWAYS SOMETHING -- OR WAS IT A STRUGGLE TO KEEP YOUR SEXUALITY HIDDEN ALWAYS OVERCOMING AND OVERPOWERING THE PLEASURE OF THE GAME AND OF BEING ON A GREAT TEAM?

YEAH, FOOTBALL -- LIKE YOU SAID EARLIER, IT WAS MY COVER, AND I NEVER DID GENUINELY LOVE FOOTBALL, BUT I DID LOVE TO COMPETE.

EVEN TO THIS DAY, WITH WHAT I AM DOING AND WHAT I'M PHYSICALLY ABLE TO DO, I ALWAYS STRIVE TO BE THE BEST AND TAKE IT AS FAR AS I CAN, SO, FOOTBALL, YOU KNOW, IT SATISFIED THAT PART OF ME, AND I WAS CONSUMED IN MY OWN HEAD WITH EVERYTHING BEING CLOSETED, BUT THERE WERE MOMENTS OF -- OF FUN.

IF EVERYTHING WAS AWFUL AND DREADFUL, YOU KNOW, I WOULDN'T HAVE HELD ON AS LONG AS I DID, END UP BEING ABLE TO GET THE HELP THAT I NEEDED.

AND TO TALK ABOUT THAT.

IN THE BOOK YOU ALSO MENTION THAT YOU HAD AN OPIOID PROBLEM, YOU DEVELOPED AN OPIOID PROBLEM.

FIRST OF ALL INGALL, WAS THAT A WAY THAT YOU TRIED TO MEDICATE YOURSELF, THE DEPRESSION YOU WERE FEELING ABOUT BEING CLOSETED OR WAS IT RESULT OF THE INJURIES YOU SUFFERED?

I'VE HAD A LOT OF INJURIES, SIX SHOULDER SURGERIES AND SO ON, AND SO I WAS INTRODUCED TO PAINKILLERS BECAUSE OF SURGERY, BUT I BECAME AN ADDICT, AND I HAVE NO PROBLEM SAYING I WAS AN ADDICT.

I WAS A JUNKIE.

PAINKILLERS GIVE YOU THAT EUPHORIC FEELING THAT MAKE YOU NOT FEEL LIKE YOURSELF AND THE LONGER I PLAYED FOOTBALL, THE MORE I HATED MYSELF AND I WOULD DO ANYTHING NOT TO FEEL THAT WAY, SO, I QUICKLY TURNED INTO AN ADDICT, BECAUSE ANYONE THAT'S EVER TAKEN THOSE SORTS OF PILLS KNOW THAT YOU COULD TAKE ONE ON THE FIRST DAY, BUT BY THE END OF THE FIRST WEEK, ONE DOESN'T DO ANYTHING, SO, IT QUICKLY TURNED INTO A REAL PROBLEM.

SO, IT WAS THAT ADDICT THAT, IN FACT, SAVED YOUR LIFE, BECAUSE AS A RESULT OF THAT ADDICTION, YOU WENT TO A TEAM PSYCHOLOGIST AND THAT IS WHEN YOU CAME OUT.

TELL THAT STORY.

YEAH, SO, I -- YOU KNOW, I THOUGHT I WAS DOING A GOOD JOB OF HIDING HOW MANY PILLS I WAS TAKING.TRAINER KNEW I WAS TAKING PILLS, I TALK ABOUT IN THE BOOK, ONE MONTH ALONE, I HAD NINE REFILLS FROM THE TEAM.

BUT HE DIDN'T KNOW EXACTLY HOW MANY I WAS TAKING AND I WAS GETTING SO MANY ON THE OUTSIDE, TOO, SO.

ONE MORNING, HE NOTICED I WAS ACTING DIFFERENTLY AND HE PULLED ME IN HIS OFFICE DISCREETLY AND SUGGESTED I GO SPEAK WITH SOMEONE.

NOW, HE DIDN'T UNDERSTAND THE UNDERLYING ISSUES I WAS DEALING WITH, WHY I WAS TAKING SO MANY PILLS, BUT IT WAS DAVID PRICE NOTICING THE PROBLEM I WAS HAVING THAT LED TO HIM INTRODUCING ME TO DR. WILSON.

SHE WAS THE TEAM PSYCHOLOGIST FOR THE CHIEFS, WHICH YOU WERE PLAYING WITH NOW?

YEAH, SO, DR. WILSON, SHE DIDN'T WORK DIRECTLY FOR THE TEAM, SHE WORKED WITH THE TEAM.

I SEE.

SHE HAD SEEN OTHER ATHLETES IN THE PAST AND EACH TEAM REALLY HAS SOMEONE LIKE THAT.

THEY SENT ME TO DR. WILSON AND INSTEAD OF TELLING THE TRAINER NO, I DON'T WANT TO GO TALK TO HER, I AGREED.

I WENT AND SPOKE WITH HER AND I THOUGHT I'D BE ABLE TO JUST PLAY HER OFF AND KIND OF JUST GET OUT OF THAT AND MOVE ON, BUT AFTER MONTHS OF SPEAKING WITH HER, SHE DID HER JOB AND REALLY BROKE ME DOWN AND I KNEW MY CAREER WAS AT AN END DUE TO INJURIES AND LIKE I SAID, AFTER MONTHS OF SPEAKING WITH HER, SHE WAS THE FIRST PERSON I EVER TOLD THAT I'M GAY.

THAT WAS THE FIRST TIME I HAD EVER SAID THE WORDS.

AND THE FIRST THING SHE DID WAS GAVE ME A HUG AND TOLD ME THAT I WASN'T THE FIRST PLAYER TO TELL HER.

IMMEDIATELY, THAT -- THE WEIGHT THAT YOU FEEL COME OFF YOUR SHOULDERS, IT'S REALLY HARD TO EXPLAIN.

SO, THAT STARTED YOUR JOURNEY INTO OPENING UP TO YOUR FAMILY AND TO TEAMMATES AND FRIENDS.

WHAT DID YOU DISCOVER?

YEAH, SO, I TOLD DR. WILSON MY PLAN AND MY FEARS OF HOW I THOUGHT NO ONE WOULD EVER ACCEPT ME AND LOVE ME AND SHE SAID SOMETHING TO ME THAT WAS VERY BASIC, SOMETHING THAT NEVER CROSSED MY MIND.

YOU KNOW, I'M A REASONABLE PERSON, BUT SHE IN HER OWN PROFESSIONAL WAY OF SAYING IT TOLD ME, WELL, WHY DON'T YOU FIND OUT IF YOU NEED TO KILL YOURSELF?

YOU THINK ALL THESE PEOPLE WON'T ACCEPT YOU, WHY WON'T YOU FIND OUT?

THAT'S WHAT I DID.

I WENT BACK OUT, HOME TO CALIFORNIA AND I DECIDED TO TELL MY IMMEDIATE FAMILY AND CLOSE FRIENDS TO SEE HOW IT WOULD GO AND I'M HERE TODAY, SO, YOU KNOW, THINGS WENT WELL.

IT DIDN'T GO EXACTLY HOW I WANTED, YOU KNOW, MY MOM -- MY MOM WAS GREAT FROM THE BEGINNING, MY DAD, TOOK HIM AWHILE TO COME AROUND, BUT YOU KNOW, ALL THOSE YEARS I WAS CLOSETED, I THOUGHT IT WAS GOING TO BE ARMAGEDDON WHEN I TOLD THEM.

I COULDN'T BE ANYMORE WRONG ABOUT THAT.

AND YOUR TEAMMATES, AS WELL?

YEAH, SO, I CAME OUT TO A BUNCH OF TEAMMATES, SLOWLY.

I HAD TO GET COMFORTABLE WITH IT AND FIND OUT A WAY TO TELL THEM INDIVIDUALLY, SO, I STARTED WITH THE GUYS I WAS CLOSEST WITH AND ONE AFTER ANOTHER, THEY WERE VERY ACCEPTING.

YOU KNOW, I DO TALK ABOUT IN THE BOOK HOW I DID END UP LOSING TWO OF MY BEST FRIENDS AND ONE OF THEM WAS ANOTHER FOOTBALL PLAYER, BUT BY THE TIME ALL THAT HAPPENED, I HAD REALIZED THAT I DON'T NEED ALL THESE PEOPLE'S ACCEPTANCE AND, YOU KNOW, I WAS REALLY ABLE TO MOVE ON AND WORK ON MYSELF.

SO, RYAN, WHAT WILL IT TAKE?

YOU KNOW, YOU -- AS I SAID IN THE INTRODUCTION, NO OPENLY GAY OR BISEXUAL FOOTBALL PLAYER HAS PLAYED A DOWN OF FOOTBALL, BUT YOUR THERAPIST SAID SHE TALKED TO A NUMBER OF FOOTBALL PLAYERS WHO WERE GAY.

WHAT WILL IT TAKE FOR FOOTBALL PLAYERS TO BE ABLE TO COME OUT AND PLAY AS GAY OR BISEXUAL PLAYERS?

YEAH, THEY'RE DEFINITELY IN THE LEAGUE.

I KNOW QUITE A FEW OF THEM.

DR. WILSON SPOKE TO THEM.

BUT THERE'S -- THE CLOSET'S A SCARY PLACE.

EVERYONE BUILDS IT UP DIFFERENTLY IN THEIR OWN HEAD AND EVERYONE HAS THEIR OWN THINGS GOING ON, WITH FAMILY AND THEIR CULTURE THAT THEY'RE AFRAID OF AND THE NFL'S ONE OF THOSE SPORTS WHERE YOU HAVE SUCH A SHORT AMOUNT OF TIME TO MAKE AS MUCH MONEY AS POSSIBLE.

I THINK A LOT OF GUYS SEE COMING OUT AS POTENTIALLY JEOPARDIZING THAT.

AND YOU WORK SO HARD YOUR WHOLE LIFE TO MAKE IT TO THAT LEVEL, A LOT OF GUYS DON'T -- DON'T WANT TO DO THAT, YOU KNOW, I -- I FIRMLY BELIEVE THE NFL IS TOTALLY READY FOR AN OUT PLAYER AND I LIKE TO POINT THESE GUYS THAT REACH OUT TO ME TO OTHER EXAMPLES OF OUT ATHLETES THAT HAVE SUCCEEDED, AND, YOU KNOW, ARGUABLY COMING OUT ACTUALLY HELPED THEM.

BUT YOU KNOW, WHEN YOU'RE DEEPLY CLOSETED, IT'S REALLY HARD SOMETIMES TO SEE THE POTENTIAL POSITIVES OF COME OG OUT.

FINALLY, YOU HAVE FOCUSED ON HELPING OTHER LGBTQ ATHLETES THROUGH YOUR FOUNDATION.

WHAT DO YOU HOPE COMES FROM THAT WORK AND WHAT DO YOU HOPE COMES FROM THE BOOK THAT YOU'VE JUST WRITTEN?

THERE'S A STATISTIC WHERE OVER HALF OF LGBTQ ATHLETES STOP PLAYING THEIR SPORT BECAUSE OF THEIR SEXUALITY, THEY JUST DON'T FEEL WELCOME OR -- OR -- DIFFERENT PERSONAL REASONS, BUT YOU KNOW, I THINK SPREADING THE MESSAGE THAT YOU CAN PLAY NO MATTER YOUR SEXUALITY OR ANYTHING ELSE, THAT, YOU KNOW, THAT SHOULDN'T BE SOMETHING THAT HOLDS YOU BACK.

SO, WITH MY FOUNDATION, THE RYAN O'CALLAGHAN FOUNDATION, THE MISSION IS TO PROVIDE SCHOLARSHIPS AND SUPPORT TO OTHER LGBTQ ATHLETES.

YOU KNOW, IT'S ALL WELL AND GOOD TO GIVE SOMEONE A CHECK AND SAY, GOOD LUCK, BUT TO ACTUALLY HAVE SOMEONE THERE TO KIND OF HOLD YOUR HAND ALONG THE WAY, I THINK THAT'S A LOT MORE BENEFICIAL.

AND I'VE BEEN FORTUNATE TO HAVE OTHER COLLEGE AND RETIRED PRO ATHLETES VOLUNTEER TO MEET WITH THESE STUDENT ATHLETES THAT COME FORWARD, SO -- WITH SALES FROM THE BOOK, ALL OF MY PROCEEDS FROM THE BOOK GO DIRECTLY TO THE CHARITY AND ALL THE OTHER THINGS THAT I DO SURROUNDING MY SEXUALITY AS FAR AS SPEECHES AND WHAT NOT, THAT GOES RIGHT TO THE CHARITY.

HOPEFULLY I CAN HAVE A LASTING IMPACT ON OTHER LGBTQ ATHLETES.

ALL RIGHT, RYAN.

THE BOOK, AGAIN, IS 'MY LIFE ON THE LINE: HOW THE NFL DAMN NEAR KILLED ME AND ENDED UP SAVING MY LIFE.'

IT'S A GREAT READ, RYAN, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US TO TALK ABOUT IT.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HAVING ME ON AND DRAWING ATTENTION TO THESE TOPICS.

> 'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM, THE PETER G. PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION.

©2022 WNET. All Rights Reserved. 825 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10019

WNET is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Tax ID: 26-2810489