The Brave One

michael-sam-brandon wade_AP

Michael Sam (photo: Brandon Wade/AP)

So we’ve got an openly gay man that wants to play in the NFL?  And he’s good enough to deserve a shot?  What’s the problem?

Michael Sam came out publicly on Sunday, likely setting himself to become the first openly gay player in the National Football League. And then a group of league executives reminded everyone why such an announcement probably didn’t happen sooner.

Speaking anonymously to Sports Illustrated, the executives said that the All-American defensive end from Missouri probably hurt his draft stock with his announcement.

“I don’t think football is ready for [an openly gay player] just yet,” an NFL player personnel assistant told SI. “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.”

One longtime NFL scout said there’s “no question” the announcement will make teams less apt to select Sam in April’s draft.

An assistant personnel director said it will take “one confident general manager or head coach” with firm job security to take Sam.

Or at least a general manager or coach confident enough to go on record and declare, “I don’t care if he’s gay.  I care if he can help us win!”

I can’t remember the name of the player but a few seasons ago there was a guy the Tennessee Titans drafted who was supposedly “too cerebral” for the NFL.   This is a league that drafts guys with criminal records, “off the field” issues, disciplinary problems and drug dependencies.  This is a league that has guys who have committed crimes including drug dealing, gang affiliations, DUI’s, and a couple of murder raps (Aaron Hernandez, Rae Carruth, Jovan Belcher, O.J. Simpson, Ray Lewis(?).

Open the door, NFL or I'll kick it in."

Open the door, NFL or I’ll kick it in.”

The NFL makes all the right noises about being diverse and inclusive, but in all the ways that counts it’s no different from the days when Reggie White was saying he never played with a gay teammate.  Which of course is a crock.  White always played with gay players.  He just didn’t know they were gay and for Sam there is still a lot of  White’s homophobic ignorance in the NFL.

But this is no longer White’s NFL and in this case that is a good thing.

Maybe because of his size, Sam will have to play as a linebacker instead of a defensive end, but he’s got the credentials that say he should be able to play on Sundays as well as he did on Saturdays.

Sam never hid his sexual orientation at Missouri and from what is being reported, he went public with it before someone else did.  Let’s be real here.  College and pro football is like ham and eggs.   There are coaches in college whom are friends with coaches in the pros and they talk.   Does anyone really think they don’t talk about the players on their teams who might be gay or are?

There will be proclamations of how wonderful this is for gay rights and how far we’ve come as a country and my, look how progressive and enlightened we are!  Which is why in 2014 an openly gay football player is the lead story on programs that don’t do football stories, right?   Let us not be naive.  Homophobia and gay-baiting/bashing won’t be ended in a NFL team’s locker room anymore than it has in Vladimir Putin’s Olympic games.

Sure Michael Sam will be called names and subject to gay-baiting.  So what?  What rookie isn’t given a hard time? What Sam will go through will be a bit different sort of hassle.  As long as he makes plays on the open field that will matter far more than what he does behind closed doors.

I don’t concern myself with the sex lives of grown-ups as long as its only with grown-ups in their sex lives.   If Joe Montana and Jerry Rice turned out to be secret lovers on the down-low creep it wouldn’t lessen one bit the joy I received from all those victories they racked up.

We will see who’s brave enough to get past the ignorance on Draft Day.  The NFL is on the clock.

It will be a great day when the NFL is troubled less by players who kiss men than players who have killed men.

Coming to sack a QB near you next season?

Coming to sack a QB near you next season?

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