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Editorial: Michael Sam’s statement is a step forward, but some see a distraction

Published: Thursday, February 13, 2014

Updated: Thursday, February 13, 2014 22:02

The announcement of Michael Sam’s sexuality has caused a stir across America with many calling it a stunning progressive turn of events and others questioning the alleged controversy. Michael Sam is a former college football player for the University of Missouri and in his senior year was unanimously voted to All-American status. It was projected prior to this announcement that he would be a third or fourth round pick in the NFL draft in April, according to the Kansas City Star. If drafted, he would be the first openly gay NFL player while active on a team. Wade Davis, Kwarne Harris, Dave Kopay, Roy Simmons, Esera Tuaolo (all of the NFL) Billy Bean, Glenn Burke, Kazuhito Tadano (of the MLB) and John Amaechi (NBA) all disclosed their homosexuality after retiring from the sport. Jason Collins of the NBA came out last May when still technically “active” but did not play a game after his announcement; he is currently a free agent.

In essence, the four major sports in America (MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL) have been devoid of a homesexual presence. The inclusion of Michael Sam would be a tremendous step forward for the NFL; unfortunately, some in the NFL are not taking it that way. In fact, according to the Washington Post, Sam dropped from the 90th best prospect to 160th as a result of his announcement. While he would eventually come back up to around 110th, the change is a clear indication of the NFL’s apprehension regarding Michael Sam’s distraction status. Many are concerned about the environment in the locker room and how such a difference may play out the field.

Sam’s supporters, among them Jon Stewart and Dale Hansen, a Texas sports anchor, have drawn attention to the fact that idea of an openly gay NFL player has drummed up more “controversy” than former NFL draft prospects who were accused of sexual assault, obstruction of justice in a murder case, DUIs and accidental manslaughter, and illegal drug use and soliciting prostitution. Isn’t it more important how Sam has played during his college career? His first team All-American and first-team all-SEC (Southeastern Conference) selection indicate he is the best at his position, defensive end. He was also named SEC Defensive Player of the Year for the 2013-2014 season. Considering SEC’s status as the best college football conference in America, being named the best defensive player in it is quite an impressive feat.

Now the ball is in the hands of NFL executives. Will they decide that Michael Sam is worth the controversy and will he be allowed to change locker room environments? Regardless, Sam marks an important step forward for conceptions of homosexuality and masculinity in American sports today. 

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