Last night Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam came out to the world. Yet again a part of me cheered.
Sam came out to his teammates before last season at a team-building event in August. His head coach Gary Pinkel, the staff and his teammates embraced him. From an ESPN story:
Pinkel said no players came directly to the coaching staff with concerns after Sam revealed his sexual orientation to the team, but he suspects that there was initially a mixed reaction.
“There are certainly players that have differences of opinions, not only on this but other social issues,” Pinkel said. “I’m not naive enough to believe that [there is not], I’m sure there are. But at the end of the day, it’s about the team, it’s about the family. We accept one another, we accept our differences, and that’s where respect and understanding is important.”
A respect of cultural differences is one of Missouri’s four core values, Pinkel said, and he was proud of how his team stuck together after Sam came out.
“I’m really proud of Mike and really proud of our football team,” Pinkel said. “We have great kids and good people, and they’re understanding. That’s kind of the environment we have and the family atmosphere at Mizzou.”
In what is deemed the best conference in college football, Sam led the SEC with 19 tackles for a loss and 11 1/2 sacks. Along with C.J. Mosley of Alabama, Sam earned SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors. The last seven winners of that honor had been drafted in the first round.
Reaction from NFL players current and former and “bullies” have been great also:
I could care less about a man's sexual preference! i care about winning games and being respectful in the locker room!
— DeAngelo Williams (@DeAngeloRB) February 10, 2014
There is no room for bigotry in American sports. It takes courage to change the culture.
— Malcolm Smith (@MalcSmitty) February 10, 2014
— Richie Incognito (@68INCOGNITO) February 10, 2014
Michael Sam isn't the 1st gay player in the NFL although he is the 1st 2 come out.#realtalk Let's show him love like a family member. Truth
— DeionSanders (@DeionSanders) February 10, 2014
So everything is good, right? Sam is going to be drafted high, he is going to be embraced by his teammates especially if he duplicates his senior season in the NFL.
Unfortunately when you read the reactions by the decision makers in the NFL, that’s when the rose-colored glasses turn dark. Peter King in his “Monday Morning Quarterback” column talked to a general manager for an NFL team who, like most of those pussies, remained anonymous.
“We talked about it this week,” the GM said. “First of all, we don’t think he’s a very good player. The reality is he’s an overrated football player in our estimation. Second: He’s going to have expectations about where he should be drafted, and I think he’ll be disappointed. He’s not going to get drafted where he thinks he should. The question you will ask yourself, knowing your team, is, ‘How will drafting him affect your locker room?’ And I am sorry to say where we are at this point in time, I think it’s going to affect most locker rooms. A lot of guys will be uncomfortable. Ten years from now, fine. But today, I think being openly gay is a factor in the locker room.”
I asked this general manager: “Do you think he’ll be drafted?”
“No,” he said.
There you have it, the bullshit red herring about “how will it affect the locker room”? It seemed to be no problem in the small town of Columbia, MO. A lot of other executives and scouts echoed that bullshit sentiment.
And there you see these people trying to deflect their homophobia. “He’s overrated.” Fine. We know that the draft is a crapshoot and most teams do a shitty job of it. Perhaps he is overrated and falls to the third round. Or fourth round. But undrafted?
Let’s not forget. This is the same league that has banished Chris Kluwe and Brendon Ayanbadejo, and those two were only vocal gay allies. Lord knows what they will do when presented a gay man who is unashamed of who he is.
Michael Sam coming out is very important. Here is a tweet I saw last night:
— Greg Katz (@GregKatz) February 10, 2014
That’s nice, but that’s a false statement. It’s like saying because Obama is the president race doesn’t matter. We know that is false.
I’m glad that a straight man doesn’t care about this issue and doesn’t care if someone is gay or straight. When you look at what’s going on in Sochi, what’s going on in Africa, what’s going on in the deep South, this matters. The more we are invisible, the more we allow ourselves to get exterminated.
I give a damn. I have to give a damn or else I’m complicit with another queer teen’s suicide, another gay-bashing victim, another hate crime against my transgendered brothers and sisters.
This is just one drop in the bucket, but this can be one big fucking drop. Let’s hope the NFL does the right thing.