Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin says his womanizing may have stemmed from seeing an older brother whom he idolized dressed as a woman and learning the brother was gay.
In the latest issue of Out magazine, Irvin said he was 12 when he discovered his older brother Vaughn's secret life. He said his father told him: "Yes, that's your brother. And you love your brother."
The former Dallas Cowboys star now appears on the NFL Network and on his own radio show in Miami. He has supported same-sex marriage on his radio show and has said he's waiting for an active player in the NFL, MLB, NBA or NHL to declare publicly that he is gay.
"Until we do that, we're going to be stuck in the Dark Ages about a lot of things," Irvin told the magazine. "When a guy steps up and says, 'This is who I am,' I guarantee you I'll give him 100 percent support."
Irvin said carrying the burden of Vaughn's secret gives him a hint of how tough it must be for a homosexual athlete to hide his orientation in a locker room.
"If I'm not gay and I am afraid to mention it, I can only imagine what an athlete must be going through if he is gay," Irvin said. "I would like to see players come forward and be happy with who they are. Hopefully, as we move forward, we'll get to a place where there's no way it's even considered; it just is what it is and everybody can do what they do. That's the ultimate goal."
Irvin said he believes the fast life he's led was to accentuate his heterosexuality. He said he wanted everyone in the locker room to see him have the most women and the nicest car "so that everybody says, 'Michael's the man.'"
"Maybe some of the issues I've had with so many women — just bringing women around so everybody can see — maybe that's residual of the fear I had that, if my brother is wearing ladies' clothes, am I going to be doing that? Is it genetic?" Irvin said. "I'm certainly not making excuses for my bad decisions. But I had to dive inside of me to find out why I was making these decisions, and that came up."
Irvin said Vaughn's cross-dressing was never discussed among the family, which included 17 children. Throughout his career, he said, he feared that Vaughn's sexual orientation would become publicized and shame the family. It wasn't disclosed until the Out article.
Irvin said he remained close to his brother, a bank manager, until his death in 2006. He was 49 when he died of stomach cancer.
"He was the smartest, most charismatic man I'd ever seen in my life," Irvin said.