Michael Sam is an out gay man. He’s also a fine football player that has the potential to become a starter in the NFL.
In an ideal world these matters would be entirely separate and not overlap.
Unfortunately, due to the media’s thirst for a story and lack of progressive thinking from other players and staff members, the two are irreconcilably related.
But should they be? Are we as a people still ‘not ready’ for a homosexual man in a ‘tough guy’ sport like football? (Michael Sam is 6”2 and 260 lbs, hardly a precious flower)
It seriously beggars belief that in this day and age a person’s sexuality is still considered a ticking time bomb in the world of sports.
So right here I’d lack to tackle some of the stereotypes and worries that people have, head on.
‘Some teammates won’t accept him’
Michael Sam’s colleagues at Missouri knew he was gay for five years. This was a college full of young men, some of whom played the game just because they love it knowing they were unlikely to be drafted. And they still all kept his secret and accepted him.
I’m not naïve enough to think that all of the members of the team agreed with his sexuality, but they were mature enough to know that a team is at it’s best when all members are united and work hard for each other and the common goal.
Missouri finished this season, as the number 5 team in the nation, how’s that for camaraderie!
So if a bunch of kids playing an amateur sport can rally round, why would a unit of men, with their very careers on the line game in game out, not do the same?
And if you want my two cents, any man castigating his own teammate for his sexuality should be kicked off the roster straight away. Football is a team game after all.
‘The locker room will be different’
A player being gay literally changes nothing. This line of argument makes the assumption that all gay men are seemingly massive bundles of emotion that cry at every mean-spirited word uttered against them.
If you believe this to be true then god help you.
Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark said the following in an interview on Sports Center earlier:
“In what ways can you talk to him...What are the things you can do and say around him that won’t make him uncomfortable?”
Well Ryan it’s simple really…talk to him.
He’s come out to the whole world so I’m pretty sure that Sam wouldn’t mind a few words from a teammate asking about boundaries.
Oh and another point. He is a man, who has spent 5 years in a football locker room just like you. A man that I assume doesn’t mind a few jokes or some light ribbing involving his sexuality etc.
Just don’t be a massive jerk, and know where the line is, that’s all.
To me, it honestly feels like all the hysteria over this has come from the media and sports fans/social commentators.
All of the NFL players tweeting about Michael Sam I’ve seen are praising him for his courageousness and have the utmost respect for his decision to become the NFL’s first openly gay player, and that’s heartening to see.
The media want the stories and will go all out for quotes saying that he’s a distraction or he won’t be accepted or that he’ll carry so much interest from media. Hacks just want views and they’ll be as controversial as possible – conveniently using ‘anonymous sources’.
And who really cares if some religious nut fans think he’s going to hell. Professional athletes hear all that and a lot worse on a day-to-day basis and manage not to react. I don’t know Michael Sam but I do hope that he can ignore whatever hate he’ll get from a small minority, most of whom hide behind a computer screen.
I’d like to point to a tweet from former NFL player Ralph Cindrich. The former Houston Oiler tweeted this in the aftermath of the announcement of Sam’s sexuality. “Had it (an openly gay player) in the 70's w/ Oilers. Not public. No one cared then or now. Team concept trumped bigotry."
Isn’t that just perfect. If even forty odd years ago homosexuality wasn’t an issue in an NFL locker room, then surely all this conjecture can be put to bed.
It’s time for the NFL to grow up.
Sam could become this generations Jackie Robinson. Stories of black players causing unrest in locker rooms were commonplace in the past, but it didn’t take long for athletes and execs to realize “oh wait, they’re just normal people.”
Hopefully Michael Sam can have that same effect, it won’t be easy don’t get me wrong, but the man is a trail blazer and an inspiration, and I wish him and all other LGBT athletes in sports worldwide the best of luck.