When NFL draft prospect Michael Sam announced his is gay yesterday during ESPN’s “Outside the Lines”, a lot of people commended him for his courage. Some people trolled in internet chat rooms and called him every slur (mostly gay, but some racial) in the book.
When I heard it, I had two feelings: 1) oh wow, he had the stones/courage to disclose his sexuality to the rest of the sporting world; 2) okay, it’s time to move on.
I’ve always said that most male athletes do not stress over their teammates’ sexualities. Athletes already have an idea of what sides of the plate his fellow teammates bat from. Hell, it’s enough stress for athletes to focus on their own regimens in preparing for games every week. The mantra is almost always, “as long as that teammate performs and helps us win, who cares who/what he is screwing”.
Sam is an All-American defensive lineman from Missouri who doubles as the Associated Press’ SEC Defensive Player of the Year. Do y’all think that some of his teammates had challenged him over his sexuality? My guesses were “no” and “hell no”. Don’t believe me? Read what Sam said about his teammates’ reactions for yourselves:
“Coaches just wanted to know a little about ourselves, our majors, where we’re from, and something that no one knows about you. And I used that opportunity just to tell them that I was gay. And their reaction was like, ‘Michael Sam finally told us.’
“I was kind of scared, even though they already knew. Just to see their reaction was awesome. They supported me from Day One. I couldn’t have better teammates. … I’m telling you what: I wouldn’t have the strength to do this today if I didn’t know how much support they’d given me this past semester.”
Here was his coach Gary Pinkel’s reaction:
“We’re really happy for Michael that he’s made the decision to announce this, and we’re proud of him and how he represents Mizzou. Michael is a great example of just how important it is to be respectful of others, he’s taught a lot of people here first-hand that it doesn’t matter what your background is, or your personal orientation, we’re all on the same team and we all support each other.”
So there you have it. His teammates didn’t think it was a big deal, and they rode his high sack total (11 1/2 sacks) to an SEC East Division title, a spot in the SEC championship game, and a victory in the Cotton Bowl. Sam also mentioned that during his Senior Bowl experience, some fellow football players were already aware of his sexual orientation.
The only downside I see in Sam coming completely out of the closet is that the media (namely ESPN) will make such a big fucking deal over it. Hell, check out ESPN’s website right now. There are several write-ups right now from what it means in NFL locker rooms going forward to the timing and the NFL’s reaction.
The people who will give Sam the most grief are the fans. Expect a few anti-gay signs and slur chants at games from opposing fans this season. The unfortunate part is that the media will make his teammates answer those inevitable “gay questions” because of that fallout.
No matter what fans say or think, there ARE -and always have been – gay players in the NFL. Maybe now other gay players will feel free to lives and their straight teammates not worry about the media asking those annoying questions.
I’m wishing this young brother nothing but luck in the NFL.