Michael Sam, an All-American defensive lineman from Missouri and the Associated Press’ SEC Defensive Player of the Year announced Sunday he is gay. He didn’t beat around the bush or simply hint at it. He just said it, owned it, and now has the opportunity to challenge, if not destroy the NFL’s unwritten hard line stance against openly gay players.
I’m sure being a ground breaker was the last thing on Sam’s mind when he came out. Living in a society where people are shunned for being different, who has time to think about being “the first”, when trying to live with and accept one’s self? Now Sam faces uncertainty, as he prepares for this year’s NFL draft.
Whether he meant to be a distraction or not, he is. I’m not saying that him coming out is distracting, but for some NFL executives, personnel and players that chose to hold on to the belief that gays have no place in the league, his coming out is not only a threat to their insecurities but it seems to be distracting.
It’s no surprise that within a sport that prides itself on being the toughest, baddest and the most machoist, anything that is different is viewed as a threat. As if being gay makes a person less ferocious on the football field. Hell there have been players that came out after retiring from football, I wonder if any of their ex-teammates thought any less of them? By being named an All-American and the Defensive Player of the Year, in College Football’s toughest and best conference, I would say is proof enough that Sam is indeed a “football player”.
There has been speculation that by coming out, Sam’s draft stock may have dropped. Since a lot of teams are reluctant to sign an openly gay player for fear of the locker room being divided, or possibly angering the fan base, they would rather not deal with it. Instead, choosing to let a player’s personal life (even if it was made public) overshadows whether or not he can help the team.
So Sam being openly gay is more of a test for the league, rather than for him. The league can either adapt, or continue to stay in the dark ages. There have already been some players and personnel that have voiced their displeasure and uneasiness with accepting a gay player on their teams and in the locker room. To say that some people would rather hold on to the “old way of doing things” is a basic yet powerful concept.
What do you think? What are your thoughts on an openly gay football player? Do you think the NFL is ready for an openly gay player?
Talk to me, I’ll talk back.