This is not going to be some sob story about societal inequality, about the state of intellectuality of our political leaders, or about how Bob Dylan was right when he said, "the times, they are a-changin'.
It could be. It very easily could be.
But my personal agenda – if you will – is to state the facts and give a rational view on a topic that will hopefully blossom into one of importance, yet not serve as a platform of argument for years to come. So, here’s my stance.
Coming out will hurt Michael Sam’s draft stock in the upcoming 2014 NFL Draft; but that does not mean that it should.
First off, let me say something that may stir the delicately seasoned pot of controversy: I am not a fan of coming out stories as they apply on the national scale. Whether it is Michael Sam or Jason Collins, I don’t think that they should feel the need to announce to the world that they are gay.
Did you catch that? Let me say it again for you.
I don’t think that they should feel the need to announce to the world that they are gay.
Strictly speaking from the realm of professional, collegiate, amateur, and youth sports, sexual preference, in my opinion (which is worth nothing, I’ll be the first to admit that), should never be something anyone feels socially obligated to broadcast to other people.
Obviously, no one forced Michael Sam to come out. That’s not what I’m saying. If that were true, we’d have a real travesty on our hands, one almost as morose as the actually unfolding travesty that some people believe Sam came out as a publicity stunt to garner attention for the upcoming draft. This was a decision he made by himself, one that many former and current NFL players never felt comfortable or courageous enough to make.
What I find terribly sad, however, is that we currently live in a professional sports world that is fostering that exact sort of culture in American football. With Michael Sam as the most recent athlete to reveal to us fans that he is gay, let us examine America’s "other" national pastime.
Football, a long-lived and long-loved tradition of testicular fortitude and pigskin pugilism, where only the tough make it out on top and the weak are trampled to the ground and picked last...
Football, a "man's" sport that has only within the past four to five decades ushered in a new era of female fan bases and viewership, the gender previously relegated to "the other room"...
Football, a bonding experience unlike that of any other sport, in which brotherly love is the closest thing you’re allowed to feel to the man fighting next to you at the line of scrimmage...
Sadly, that’s what it’ll likely come down to for Michael Sam. The 6-foot-2, 256 pound defensive end from the University of Missouri will likely be chosen farther down the draft board on May 8 than he would have. For those of you that don’t know, those dimensions are a bit undersized for his position. Even as the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, many scouts have said he "didn’t do himself any favors" by revealing his sexuality.
Had he not expressed his sexuality, Sam may have gone higher in the draft. But at what cost? Only to feel uncomfortable in an NFL locker room filled with acceptance for convicted felons, but not for gays?
Speaking of fighting, that’s allowed.
Michael Vick and three other men were charged by federal authorities with felony charges of operating an unlawful interstate dog-fighting venture known as "Bad Newz Kennels" in 2007. Vick was accused of financing the entire operation, directly participating in dogfights and executions, and personally handling thousands of dollars in related gambling activities. Almost immediately after exiting prison, he was offered a six-year, $100 million contract by the Philadelphia Eagles.
O.J. Simpson was put on trial and ultimately acquitted for the murder of his wife, Nicole Brown, in 1995. Despite what many people would describe as overwhelming evidence against the Hall of Fame running back, Simpson was deemed innocent.
Even double murder.
Ray Lewis was questionably acquitted in the slaying of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar in 2000, a case that has to this day remained unopened and unsolved. He is a Super Bowl MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, 13-time Pro Bowler, seven-time AP First Team All-Pro player, and a three-time AP Second Team All-Pro Selection.
Triple murder? Sure.
Aaron Hernandez is currently awaiting the outcome of an ongoing investigation into his involvement in the murder of Odin Lloyd in 2013 and a double homicide in Boston in 2012. He averaged just under 60 receptions and 600 yards per season with the New England Patriots from 2010 to 2013.
But being gay...?
This brings us full circle back to what I said about not liking the announcement of sexuality. Here at BC, and most other places in the world, being gay is a much less of an issue. Society is not structured like the NFL. Those that are gay have the opportunity to tell whomever they like, whenever they feel is best – finding the strength to do so is a completely different story, unfortunately, but this is the announcement I am all for.
Michael Sam, while he had the privilege of confiding in his teammates, did not have the privilege of when it came to the rest of the country. The atmosphere surrounding the NFL is not as accepting as many would like it to be in the year 2014. Sam took it upon himself to “forewarn” scouts of exactly what kind of person they would be investing in when they called his name on draft day.
It was a decision he made; and acutely aware of the consequences a decision of this gravity would have on his draft stock, it was a decision he still chose to make.
Individuality is one thing, but being "forced" to reveal one’s sexual preference because of a stigma, threaded so deeply into the depths of an establishment that it prevents you from foreseeing comfort or possible acceptance without doing so, is a far cry from expressing one’s own identity.
We’ve seen a situation like this before.
Jackie Robinson was the first African-American to play in the MLB, and it took a while for not only fans but also teams and management officials to come to terms with this fact. While the color barrier was a much harder one to break – Jackie Robinson had to be the best baseball player of his time in order to be signed and actually stick with the Brooklyn Dodgers amid controversy over his ethnicity – because you can’t hide skin pigmentation, I think there’s a lesson to be learned from it.
Football or not, someone should not have to announce to the planet that they are gay in order for other people to prepare themselves for coexistence. Sexual preference is not a jersey number, so the NFL and all sports alike should stop treating it as if it needs to be sown across someone’s uniform for all to see.
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