By Michael Gan
Should one man’s sexuality be a huge issue in professional sports?
On Sunday, in an interview with The New York Times, potential NFL draft prospect Michael Sam came out to the world. Word travelled fast, and there was a mixed reaction to the news. Some current National Football League (NFL) players and owners voiced their support for Sam. While certain players and anonymous personnel members were opposed to the idea of a homosexual man palying in the NFL.
In a Sports Illustrated interview with eight executives and coaches who wished to remain anonymous, several quotes reflect a tough journey to the NFL for Michael Sam.
One criticism of having an openly gay player in the NFL is the idea that he will distract the media. However, any competent NFL should be able to handle the media properly and Sam’s sexuality will quickly become a non-issue.
Look at what happened to the 2013 New England Patriots. They lost a key player who committed murder and signed Tim Tebow. However, they ignored the distractions provided by media and had a successful season with a 12-4 record. In the same year, the Miami Dolphins missed the play offs as a result of turmoil in the locker room and weak leadership. If an NFL a team runs a strong, competent organization, they should be able to handle the media and the locker room with ease.
Another criticism involves the idea that an openly gay NFL player will ruin the chemistry of the locker room. Missouri’s 2013 football season is a testament to the fact that that an openly gay player will not affect the team’s success.
In the summer before Missouri’s successful season, Michael Sam came out to his teammates and coaches. His coming out made the team stronger as a whole. After a 5-7 record in their inaugural season in the Southeastern Conference (SEC), the Tigers improved to an 11-2 record the following season, won the SEC East title, played in the SEC title game, and won the Cotton Bowl. Michael Sam himself had a great year as an All-American defensive end and the SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
If Sam’s college team was not fazed by his coming out, NFL teams should not have to worry about Sam’s sexuality. In college, Michael Sam sees his teammates on a daily basis. He dorms with them, he has classes with them, he practices with them, and he plays with them. His sexuality did not affect them and they interact with Sam on a daily basis. Therefore, it shouldn’t bother his future NFL teammates either.
Finally, there are athletes competing in the NFL with criminal records, which include sexual assault, domestic violence, dog fighting, and murder. It is disturbing that no one is bothered by that part of the athlete’s personal lives as much some people are unsettled by a man’s sexuality.
Whether the NFL is ready or not, Michael Sam is gay and he’s going to play.