The idea of manliness dominates the NFL. Unfortunately, homosexuality contradicts many people’s beliefs on masculinity, which leads several football players to remain closeted until retirement. Sunday night, the University of Missouri Tigers’ player and NFL draft hopeful Michael Sam said: “I'm a college graduate. I'm African American, and I'm gay. I'm comfortable in my skin."
For a while Sam’s college community knew all about his sexuality. In August he officially publicized it to his Tigers teammates. Many of them already suspected he was gay; he never hid it around campus. He even openly dated a member of Mizzou’s swimming team. Sam expressed that his teammates welcomed and accepted his coming out; some even visited gay bars with him as a way to bond.
If drafted in May, Sam will be the first openly gay active NFL player. A main reason Sam decided to publicize his sexuality is because he believed many teams already assumed it, and discriminated against him because of it. By making it public knowledge, he feels the team who drafts him will be accepting him and his sexuality.
Despite Sam’s brave move, many sports experts believe this announcement hurts his draft chances. Sports Illustrated broke down several reasons why this could hurt Sam more than help him. One reason is because, as progressive as the world has become, football remains a sport about masculinity. Therefore, few teams and coaches want to take this stand towards gay rights.
An anonymous NFL player personnel assistant told Sports Illustrated this about Sam’s draft possibilities:
“I don't think football is ready for [an openly gay player] just yet. In the coming decade or two, it's going to be acceptable, but at this point in time it's still a man's-man game. To call somebody a [gay slur] is still so commonplace. It'd chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room."
An anonymous NFL assistant coach added this:
“There are guys in locker rooms that maturity-wise cannot handle it or deal with the thought of that. There's nothing more sensitive than the heartbeat of the locker room. If you knowingly bring someone in there with that sexual orientation, how are the other guys going to deal with it? It's going to be a big distraction. That's the reality. It shouldn't be, but it will be."
Media attention from this announcement is another reason why NFL experts believe Sam’s coming out hurts his chances of being drafted. Sam is now a hot topic player, so the press will monitor his every move, which may distract from actual game preparation.
"Every Tom, Dick and Harry in the media is going to show up, from Good Housekeeping to the Today Show. A general manager is going to ask, 'Why are we going to do that to ourselves?'"
Whatever the outcome of Sam’s draft, his brave actions deserve admiration. He took a huge step towards change.
— Michael Sam (@MikeSamFootball) February 10, 2014
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