By Julian Reed
We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal. Cleverly written sytanx by the founding fathers. However, it hasn’t always been applied. Male Sports in particular, has remained one of the last havens for fear mongering, rigid, hubris driven decision making and ultimately disenfranchisement for gay athletes.
Ripe with insecurity and meat headed machismo, pro sports leagues have created a volatile culture for homosexuals. The NFL specifically, legendary for the grit and toughness required to be apart of the fraternity has harbored this culture. Within this culture, who would have the courage to reveal their personal lives?
I present you Michael Sam. Defensive End for the University of Missouri and upcoming NFL Draft prospect. Today, he announced that he is gay. Now let’s be clear, who anybody chooses to love is their business. So you maybe wonder why this is important then? Sam has the opportunity to become the first openly gay player in the history of the NFL. No player in over a 70 year history has ever revealed themselves while active in the NFL. This is groundbreaking on so many levels.
In my eyes, the story here isn’t as much about the first openly gay NFL player as much as it speaks to many myths we hold onto in America as well as how far we’ve come as a nation. Sam informed his teammates and coaches at Missouri during the summer about his sexuality.
So that means an entire football team of over 70 individuals knew the truth and kept it in house. As a society, we have these widely accepted myths about athletes and sports. Players are selfish, ego maniacs, doing anything possible for attention and self promotion. Here we have a story about a football team and community understanding the moment, and allowing Michael Sam the opportunity to tell the world if and when he felt he was ready to do so.
Nobody ran to TMZ or Deadspin for a quick buck and 5 minutes of fame. The football team, the family, the brotherhood came first. I applaud the Missouri Tigers Football Team, athletic department and Michael Sam.
It takes tremendous bravery and courage to reveal such personal truths to the world. A world ready to rush to judgement, criticize and demean for sheer sport. Sam told the New York Times “I just want to make sure I could tell my story the way I want to tell it”. “I just want to own my truth”.
He has a tremendous opportunity to help break down another of society’s archaic flaws, and in it’s most popular sport nonetheless. Michael Sam isn’t the first gay football player. But he’s about to be the first openly gay player in the NFL.
The NFL has long since needed a Michael Sam. Needed a courageous trailblazer to tear down a wall of prejudice, misunderstanding, and fear. His bravery will hopefully pave the way for more gay athletes in all sports to come forward. That is ultimately how we move the ball forward, by having the discussion.
We now as a society have the opportunity to show the world how far we’ve come. Michael Sam and those like him can live, prosper and be happy doing so without fear of persecution. Inherently, sports are supposed to be a reflection of life, and they’re more and more beginning to achieve that. I harken to Martin Luther King Jr.
I too hope to one day live in a country where one is judged solely on the content of their character. My hope for sports, that one day this isn’t news worthy. That gay and lesbian people in sports and outside of it have the same treatment and opportunities as everyone else.
Who you love or sleep with has no bearing on your ability to dribble a basketball, rush a quarterback, etc. So it goes without saying that I have zero concern who anybody sleeps with. This is a day to celebrate a sea change, a monumental evolution in arguably the most machismo dominated sport on earth.
Michael Sam isn’t the first gay athlete and he won’t be the last, but he deserves credit for pioneering it in the NFL. As of now, he is projected as a late 1st, early to mid 2nd round pick in this April’s upcoming NFL Draft.