Monday, February 10, 2014

Are You Ready For An Openly Gay NFL Player?

From yesterday’s New York Times:

Coaches at the University of Missouri divided players into small groups at a preseason football practice last year for a team-building exercise. One by one, players were asked to talk about themselves — where they grew up, why they chose Missouri and what others might not know about them.

As Michael Sam, a defensive lineman, began to speak, he balled up a piece of paper in his hands. “I’m gay,” he said. With that, Mr. Sam set himself on a path to become the first publicly gay player in the National Football League.

“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.

Mr. Sam, a senior who was listed at 6 feet 2 inches and 260 pounds, had a stellar season as Missouri finished 12-2 and won the Cotton Bowl. 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.

Now Mr. Sam enters an uncharted area of the sports landscape. He is making his public declaration before he is drafted, to the potential detriment to his professional career. And he is doing so as he prepares to enter a league with an overtly macho culture, where controversies over homophobia have attracted recent attention.

As the pace of the gay rights movement has accelerated in recent years, the sports industry has changed relatively little for men, with no publicly gay athletes in the N.F.L., the N.B.A., the N.H.L. or Major League Baseball. Against this backdrop, Mr. Sam could become a symbol for the country’s gay rights movement or a flash point in a football culture war — or both.

Not to minimize the bravery he’s showing in coming out publicly in a sport that is not known to be accepting of anything outside the macho heteronormative butch image, it’s getting to the point where a lot of people both in and out of the game are saying, “Yeah, it’s about time.”  All of Mr. Sam’s teammates knew, which meant that they were either discrete or didn’t care.  My guess is that it was the latter.

Nevertheless, I wish him the best for a safe and healthy career in the sport he loves and for the path he’s chosen.  He’s going to get the usual ration of shit from the all-too-projecting haters, but there are probably just as many football fans who are either gay or don’t give a shit who is.

This is taking us to the point where no one cares, and it sounds like just what Mr. Sam wants to accomplish.

2 barks and woofs on “Are You Ready For An Openly Gay NFL Player?

  1. Someday soon, the reaction to this kind of news will be “so?”. I do hope he isn’t physically attacked by a rabid, homophobe football fan.

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