Michael Sam’s coming out brought bigots out of the closet
It’s hard to miss some of the world’s reactions this year to the 2014 Winter Olympics being held in Sochi. From rings that didn’t open during the opening ceremony to incomplete hotels causing a Twitter sensation, it’s hard to believe one of the biggest issues the world is having with Sochi doesn’t have to do with either problem — it’s Russia’s homophobia. Germany wore rainbow-colored uniforms to the opening ceremony, making it hard to believe that those multi-colored uniforms weren’t political messages.
But the same Sochi message is right here in America, and it’s right in the middle of its most beloved sport: football.
Michael Sam, the Southeastern Conference’s defensive player of the year, has come out as the first openly gay NFL draft prospect. But the choice to come out has been met with some resistance as well as support.
A Sports Illustrated article interviewing NFL personnel gave anonymous quotes, such as, “I don’t think football is ready for (an openly gay player) just yet.” Another one read, “It would chemically imbalance an NFL locker room.”
As Texas Monthly’s Dan Solomon wrote, it doesn’t really matter whether NFL personnel are ready for a gay player.
According to ESPN sportswriter Jason Whitlock, football is already playing catch-up in the “American battle for social justice.” Whitlock, via ESPN, followed up with the same general theme as Solomon in his article when he wrote that “our debate regarding homosexuality and tolerance has been settled. We’re a nation that is now firmly and permanently pro-gay marriage.”
I guess he hasn’t read much Sports Illustrated. Yet most people forget that Sam’s football career — including leading the University of Missouri Tigers to 11 regular-season game wins, playing in the SEC Championship and finishing the season as fifth in the nation — was completed while almost no one of serious importance knew he was homosexual.
That is, besides his teammates.
That’s right. Sam came out to his teammates that he was homosexual last season, as Missouri seized 12 wins. It doesn’t seem like his being homosexual bothered the “chemical balance” enough to hurt the team’s winning record.
According to a Sports Illustrated article on Monday, if one were to examine his “SEC-best (with) 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss,” one would “see a high-motor pass rusher who could go as high as the third round.”
But his skills in football may be in jeopardy now that he has come out. Just look at NBA player Jason Collins, who came out as homosexual last year and hasn’t been able to land even a 10-day contract with anyone.
Careers aside, Collins and Sam met only a few days before Sam came out. Collins tweeted about the “tremendous courage” he saw in Sam and said whatever team chose to pick the six foot two player would be “lucky.”
Sam’s sexual orientation doesn’t matter; he’s a good player and he deserves to play the sport he loves. American sports are known for breaking boundaries. Jackie Robinson is proof of how sports can change prejudices.
Let’s keep that beautiful aspect of sports alive and continue the tradition of players being chosen — or not — for skill and not for any other reason.
Opinion columnist Rachel Lee is an English sophomore and may be reached at [email protected]