Is the NFL Ready for a Change?
Michael Sam is the first openly gay NFL prospect
Michael Sam is an All-American defensive lineman, NFL prospect, Southeastern Conference Co-Defensive Player of the Year and he recently revealed to the world that he is also a gay man.
“I just want to make sure I could tell my story the way I want to tell it. I just want to tell my own truth,” Sam was quoted saying in reports posted by ESPN and the New York Times.
Sam’s story is one of bravery and strength and says something about social acceptance in the hard-hitting, testosterone-driven world of football. Sam will be the first openly-gay player to attend the annual NFL scouting combine.
“It took a lot of courage to televise his announcement. If he shows half as much strength on the field as he did with this announcement, then any team would be lucky to have him,” said Old Dominion University junior, De’Johnna Clark.
While this would seem like a milestone to many, it isn’t for Sam who has dealt with much harder trials in his personal life. He has three siblings who died and two brothers in prison, not to mention his briefly living in the back seat of his mother’s car. Anyone who knows the story of Sam’s childhood would never question whether or not he has strength.
The question that is on everyone’s mind is whether or not the NFL is ready for its first openly gay player. This will not be the same environment as a college locker room in which there are a number of student-athletes there on scholarship. A number of analysts have stated that there may be major disapproval from teammates in the locker room, as well as strife due to increased media coverage of the team.
“If any NFL team can’t ‘handle the media coverage’ of drafting Sam, then your team is already a loser on the field,” former NFL wide receiver, Donte Stallworth wrote in a series of tweets.
ODU junior, Demetrius Whipple, viewed Stallworth’s series of tweets and completely agrees with him.
“I understand being uncomfortable to a degree, but I think that this is being blown out of proportion. If he adds value to your team [then] he’s welcome,” Whipple said.
There has been a wide range of reactions from former and current NFL players when asked how they would feel playing alongside a homosexual teammate. While a few reactions have suggested that players would be reluctant, most responded saying they would pay no attention to his sexuality as long as he is performing on the field.
“Having a gay person on the field or in the locker room shouldn’t matter because it [is] about who they are and what they bring to the table,” ODU sophomore, Anissa Bennett said.
Sam certainly has a lot to bring to the field as he led the SEC with 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss in a 12-2 season as a senior at the University of Missouri, in which the team went on to win the Cotton Bowl in 2013. Scouts at the NFL combine will be grading him strictly on ability and statistics. Sam is projected to be a mid-round pick, but he does face the possibility of everything being equal with him and another player, yet getting passed up due to off-the-field issues.
Whether or not Sam is drafted into the NFL, his story will remain as one of the most remarkable in the history of professional sports for years to come. At the end of the day, the most important thing is how he produces on the field, not his sexual orientation.
By Jasmine Blackwell