Michael Sam was drafted to the NFL on May 10th. The St. Louis Rams picked him up late in the seventh round. Understandably, the man was overcome with emotion upon seeing all of his childhood dreams come true. ESPN had sent a news crew to his home to film the moment, and ended up broadcasting a moment between two people – Michael Sam kissing his partner in front of the nation.
He didn’t do anything different than what countless other people have done before. Many people, upon being drafted, kiss their partners or embrace family members that are by their side while anxiously awaiting the phone call that might never come. After speaking with his new head coach, Sam went ahead and shared that joy with his partner – who happened to be a man. Oh wait, that’s the difference. I have to hand it to ESPN and the draft team. As John Oliver pointed out, they didn’t react. They “just used the same bland platitudes they used when talking about every other player that was drafted.”
As a former resident of Kansas City, MO, I’ve enjoyed watching Sam represent Mizzou. I was thrilled watching him win the well-deserved title of the SEC’s co-defensive player of the year in 2013, and I was overwhelmed to see him come out as an “openly, proud gay man.”
If you don’t know very much about sports or how the draft works, it’s okay.
Here’s what you need to know about Sam and his round position: his spot on the team isn’t assured simply because he got a phone call. Those later round picks are never a lock-in. Sam isn’t being evaluated as a starter for the Rams, but rather for a spot on special teams.
Rick Sanchez, one of the most bigoted, homophobic sports writers around, knows that you don’t know this, either. He’s been shouting about how Michael Sam is merely playing the stereotypes to get drafted. In his most recent piece, however, he isn’t concerned enough with getting the facts straight (the Browns chose Johnny Football, not Sam) but instead is concerned with pointing out that Michael Sam is a disgrace. And the gay community should be ashamed of him.
His feeble argument is that in a world of Ocho Cinco’s, flashy cars, companies who finance everything on players down to their Rolexes, the “NFL is a league that reigns in ‘showboating’ of any kind.” He goes on to say that many of “Sam’s fans who aren’t necessarily football enthusiasts” may not get it, but “most of America does.”
So, just so you know, fellow members of the rainbow brigade: We don’t understand football. We’re too fey.
Before Sam came out in February, there were predictions that he could go as high as the third round. Afterwards? Well, concerns about him being “too small” to be a linebacker surfaced. These concerns are rightfully placed. And then there was the hoopla about him coming out. What team would draft him? NFL players spoke freely about not wanting Sam eye-raping them in the locker room.
NFL players – whom countless children look up to while getting paid millions of dollars to play a game for a supposedly non-profit organization – are afraid that Sam is going to be in the locker room, feasting his eyes on the visual fruit laid out before him.
That’s like saying men shouldn’t be forced to control their urges simply because a woman is wearing shorts and a tank-top. Does anyone not realize how absurd that sounds?
If Sam doesn’t get his spot on the Rams this year, it’s not because the Rams are being homophobic. If he DOES earn his spot, it isn’t because the Rams are afraid of being seen as bigoted. Sam hasn’t made this about his sexuality. He simply stated a fact. Everyone else who keeps harping on it makes it about his sexuality. People like Rickey Incognito harbor mindsets that aren’t welcome. Marshall Henderson isn’t even tapped for the NBA draft. Eventually they’ll realize they look just as silly making those comments on Twitter and to the press as KKK members dressed up in front of schools during integration.
Saturday Night Live lampooned the hoopla this week. Because of the backlash regarding the Oprah series, Oprah’s producers announced today that they aren’t going to film any training camp, giving deference to the fact that Sam should be allowed to fight for his spot on the same playing field as everyone else. The Rams didn’t know about the full breadth of the documentary before drafting Sam, but were willing to work with him. His team is backing him 100%.
America, you need to face it: Times are changing. Being gay isn’t scandalous anymore. The face of the American with the buying power has been changing and it isn’t a scared, fifty-year-old Republican anymore. It isn’t homophobic communities anymore. We’re no longer a nation that allows an anchor to say that an African-American player is a “class act” because they are afraid of being accused of racism if they criticize a performance. Yes, Sam is the only NFL player that was congratulated by President Obama upon being drafted this year. But Sam is the only NFL player that was subject to bigotry and hatred simply because his partner shared a Y chromosome with him.
If you’re concerned about how this will affect your children’s views, or how to talk to your children, the good folks over at Heck Bender offer this EXCELLENT primer:
[embedvideo id=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_MLi2wAfdM” website=”youtube”]
Welcome to the NFL, Michael Sam. I am only saddened that I have to deal with douchebag Johnny Manziel instead of you this season.
Well … what the Browns don’t know can’t hurt them. GO RAMS!