I recently received a text from my father. He was asking for my opinion on a recent controversy involving a gay football player who was being considered as a top pick for the NFL draft. I was completely uneducated on the topic, so I began to research.
- Gay, brave and successful.
Photo from NBC.com.
The football player my father was talking about was Michael Sam, a defensive end (I refuse to make Mr. Sam the butt of every gay joke) at the University of Missouri. Not only is he a football player, he’s a great one. Sam is expected to be an early round draft pick. This guy seems to be a big deal in football right now.
According to the New York Times “He was a first-team all-American and was named the Associated Press defensive player of the year in the Southeastern Conference, widely considered the top league in college football. Teammates voted him Missouri’s most valuable player.”
He’s even the “first-team all-American at defensive end” according to the Associated Press.
Whoopdie-doo. Michael Sam is gay and a football player who’s really good. That was my thought about this current “issue.” However, it stems much further than that, and Sam’s story truly is an interesting one. Michael Sam, if drafted, will be the first ever openly gay football player in the NFL. Now this is a big deal. However, the talking heads think that his decision to be open about his sexuality may still affect his chances of being drafted, regardless of his obvious skill in the sport.
That’s not even the best part.
As I read the online comments on the piece about Sam from the New York Times, I was disgusted and proud at varying levels of tolerance and ignorance. Many people are questioning whether or not his draft will be affected due to his future teammates. “Will the team be able to operate cohesively and successfully with a gay man as a member?” Many imbeciles out there are even citing the comment Jonathan Vilma, a New Orleans Saints linebacker offered as testimony. Vilma said in an interview with NFL Network “that he did not want a gay teammate.”
Well forget that, forget Jonathan Vilma and forget his ignorant attitude.
At any given time, the NFL has 1,600 players on the roster. Of course there’s going to be someone ignorant, closed-minded and intolerant. As a matter of fact, if you can randomly gather, 1,600 men and find ONE who doesn’t have at least one offensive belief, I’ll give you $50.
I can certainly identify with Mr. Sam’s struggle. I came out at the age of 12 in seventh grade. Being the first openly gay kid in my middle school (and town for that matter) was not pleasant. When news reached home, parents were telling the school that they weren’t comfortable with their children’s flesh being exposed in the vicinity of some heathen. As a result, I was further ostracized and forced to change in a single stall in the accessible locker room.
However, we aren’t talking about seventh grade boys. Yes, Michael Sam will be the first openly gay NFL player if drafted, just as I was the first openly gay kid at Great Bridge Middle School. However, the situation is obviously different. The men that Michael Sam will be changing with are his teammates. Not only are they his comrades, but they’re not pre-pubescent boys. Mr. Sam’s future teammates will be grown men, and I expect they will act like it (most of them, anyway). Many people on the New York Times and ESPN message forums disagree with me on this.
Michael Sam came out to his current teammates some time ago. On top of that, his teammates and coaches truly supported him: “I looked in their eyes, and they just started shaking their heads — like, finally, he came out,” Mr. Sam said Sunday in an interview with The New York Times, the first time he had spoken publicly about his sexual orientation.” So, here’s this guy who comes out to his entire team, and they keep it a secret. Not only that, but the Tigers had what is considered arguably one of their best seasons ever. Michael Sam may as well be the reason.
With all of this in mind, I find it hard to believe that Michael Sam’s coming out will hinder his chances of being drafted in the NFL. If anything, I believe it’ll help him. The NFL currently has a policy that prohibits any sort of discrimination based on sexuality. However, this doesn’t mean discrimination won’t still occur.
Here comes a young football prodigy, whose name is in all the papers and the mouths of people all over the world. He’s the perfect package! He brings press, attention and notice as well as talent, skill, stats and precision. I’m proud to be placed in the same sociological category as Mr. Sam.
As the NFL stated, “We admire Michael Sam’s honesty and courage. Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014” (New York Times).
Mr. Sam doesn’t have an easy road ahead of him. Being openly gay is itself a struggle, let alone the fact that he’s currently and consistently in the spotlight. However, Mr. Sam has some really positive things going for him:
His current team supports him.
His coaches support him.
His university supports him.
His parents support him.
The New York Times supports him.
The league supports him.
Gay activists support him.
AND overly worked up, screamingly gay, militant members of the press such as myself SUPPORT HIM.
On top of ALL of this, Michael Sam is the easiest type of gay to be: masculine.
I said it with Clayton Pettet, and I’ll say it with Michael Sam. This kid is gay. Great. Congratulations; here’s a parade. So, NOW can we move on and let the kid do what he’s good at?