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Browns notes: D’Qwell Jackson, former teammates Chris Gocong, Eric Barton join gay rights group

By Nate Ulrich Published: May 10, 2013

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Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson and former teammates Chris Gocong and Eric Barton have become ambassadors for Athlete Ally, an organization dedicated to ending homophobia in sports.

Athlete Ally announced the additions of Jackson, Gocong and Barton today on its website.

Former Browns and New Orleans Saints linebacker Scott Fujita, who recently retired from the NFL, is also an ambassador for the group. He recruited Jackson and former Browns linebackers Gocong and Barton.

“I am forever grateful to the game of football for teaching me the value of teamwork and sportsmanship and honored that my former teammates recognize their responsibility as role models in our culture,” Fujita said in the announcement. “With each new Athlete Ally that speaks out, an LGBT athlete may feel more comfortable in his or her sport, and will know that there is support. It is clear by the advocacy of these players that Cleveland is a welcoming environment. That is something I am very proud of.”

Since NBA veteran Jason Collins announced last month that he is gay in a first-person essay for Sports Illustrated, the debate about whether an openly gay player would be accepted in the NFL has intensified. As part of Athlete Ally’s announcement, Jackson indicated he would welcome a gay teammate.

“I believe that everyone should be treated the same,” Jackson said in the announcement. “That's my thought as a person and as a teammate. Joining Athlete Ally is my way of letting it be known that I would respect any teammate -- gay or straight. It just doesn't matter.”

Gocong echoed Jackson’s sentiment.

“Scott Fujita was a pioneer in the player movement to create an inclusive environment in the NFL, and I feel it is my duty to help continue that work as the league moves from tolerance to acceptance,” Gocong said in the announcement. “I want to support any athlete to feel more comfortable and confident being himself.”

Jackson, Gocong, and Barton join Fujita, Brendon Ayanbadejo, Chris Kluwe, Donte Stallworth and Connor Barwin as NFL players who serve as ambassadors for Athlete Ally. They act as liaisons between the organization and the league, promote the group's mission and encourage their colleagues to join the effort.

GM to speak

Browns General Manager Mike Lombardi is scheduled to address the Pro Football Hall of Fame Luncheon Club on Monday afternoon at Tozzi’s on 12th in Canton.

Lunch will be served starting at 11 a.m. The program is set to begin at 12:10 p.m.

T-Rich makes list

Browns running back Trent Richardson is ranked 71st on NFL Network’s “Top 100 Players of 2013.” Richardson’s place on the list was revealed Thursday night.

Richardson played with broken ribs the majority of his rookie season in 2012 and compiled 267 carries for 950 yards (3.6 average) and 11 touchdowns to go along with 51 catches for 367 yards and a touchdown in 15 games.

Rookie minicamp underway

The Browns will hold their rookie minicamp today through Sunday. Reporters are invited to cover the minicamp today and Saturday.

Practice is open to the media from 2:30-3 p.m. today. Coach Rob Chudzinski and players are scheduled to be available at 3:45 p.m. The same schedule will be in place Saturday.

Stay tuned for updates.

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