I watched the 1st round of the NFL draft; mainly because I wanted to see who the Giants would pick.ESPN’s front page for the rest of the weekend was about Michael Sam. Since his announcement, the media has created this awkward love affair
(pun intended) with Sam and his place in history. That’s not the fascinating part though. This man’s life has become such a polarizing issue between the rabid sports fan and the fans who likely couldn’t care less about football, but are passionate about his cause. What I’ve come to notice in the comments section of any article regarding Michael Sam is there are people who conflicted about their level of care about him. Here are some of my thoughts…
1) Regardless of his professional career outlook, his mere presence is going to be a major headline in sports for the immediate future. I’ll say this and stand behind it, Jason Collins could’ve and should’ve shut the f*ck up about his sexuality. He’s on the tail end of his career and nobody legitimately cared about him. Michael Sam, on the other end, has the platform to help usher in a new era in college and professional sports. His announcement was strategic, but not in a negative manner. Any team that took a chance on drafting Sam was going to forever be attached to the start of a social shift. Several HoF veterans have already said that they’ve had gay teammates who we’ll never be able to identify. But the fact that Sam had the courage to step up and live his truth puts him in a very important category of sports figures.
2) I didn’t see the live celebration between Sam and his boyfriend. What I did see is that people think that being tolerant negates that they still may be slightly phobic of “those people”. News flash! Saying you support equal rights but don’t agree with the homosexual lifestyle is problematic. It’s an indication that your support has conditions and prerequisites. If you feel like it was too much or that Sam should have to hide in plain sight, you don’t truly support gay rights and equality. My beliefs are my beliefs and I’m not going to be guilted into changing them because it’s “not progressive”. If that’s how you feel, you can commit to that. Stop trying to front because you can’t handle the criticism from the rest of the liberal world.
3) Sam’s late round selection is validated by his poor combine performance. There are many professional players who weren’t even invited to a combine but have gone on to have decent careers in the league. Sure, he was the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Year. But he’s not a remarkable player at his position. Sam is the definition of an overrated player. I think he knows that but I also think he’s going to put in the work to prove people wrong.
4) Every media story gains traction because there’s some level of interest. As long as people keep clicking on Sam stories, they aren’t going anywhere. With sports specifically, there is always an agenda. Are people equally complaining about Johnny Football fatigue? Is it different because Manziel is a QB or because he’s a straight white male?
5) Michael Sam said himself that he just wants to be viewed as a football player. He won’t get much playing time in St. Louis. I think he’s one of those project type of players. Not surprisingly, his jersey sales are through the roof. Whether he wants to be or not, he’s a figurehead for an often silenced community in sports.
I wrote about this because I care about Michael Sam, the young black man who is in a great situation. There are thousands of college players that will never see their name in a NFL locker room, despite how hard they’ve worked. Sam also has the unique opportunity to show that American sports culture can handle an openly gay man with respect and dignity. Generally, I think society cares (is turned off by) about the over-saturation of that one part of Sam’s image, versus having a problem with gay athletes at-large.
Regardless of how his career goes, Sam will be a voice for other athletes who feel society won’t accept the entirety of who they are. For me, as a football fan, him being gay is just a footnote.