Mizzou defensive end, Michael Sam featured at a press conference. Photo: essence.com Dane McGuire Copy Editor
Earlier in 2014, after defensive end Michael Sam completed his football career at the University of Missouri, he publicly came out as gay. If he is drafted into the NFL, which is likely, he will be the first openly gay active player in NFL history.
When I decided to write this column, I wanted to make a point. I was talking with my stepmom about this situation with Michael Sam and she simply responded, “Who cares?”
Let me clarify something, the reason this issue is getting such publicity is not because Sam happens to be gay. He is a gay athlete in pro football, a giant in the sports world.
Other gay athletes now have someone to look to to show that it’s okay to come out during their playing career. The world of sports is changing, just like the real world around it.
Gareth Thomas, a former rugby player came out after retiring, Orlando Cruz came out, but competes in the almost dead sport of boxing.
Fred Rosser, who performs as Darren Young, is the first “open” WWE superstar. Jason Collins did the same as well, but the NBA’s popularity is dwarfed in comparison to the NFL. Now there is a mainstream face to put with this movement.
The announcement by Sam has had its fair share of backlash, because the locker room is “a man’s world”. Newsflash: the locker room is also a woman’s world, a disabled person’s world, and a home to a multitude of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds.
Whether you agree with this lifestyle or not, Sam is still a human being, and the lesson to be learned here is: acceptance. His Missouri coaches and teammates have known all of this since August.
He told ESPN that he did date another athlete, but not another football player because,
“It’s a business workplace, we have to act professional. I’ve never been attracted to any of my teammates, because I didn’t want that problem in the locker room.”
Now that I have said my piece, can we all just treat Sam like any other SEC Defensive Player of the Year and fourth round draft prospect? I know that the next time I put Michael Sam in L&C headlines, his athletic accomplishments will warrant it.
Welcome to the new age of football, the new age of sports. As reported by the New York Daily News, Sam said it to the media at the NFL combine the best,
“I just wish you guys would see me as Michael Sam the football player instead of Michael Sam the gay football player.”