If you are a fan of football, I am pretty sure you have heard about Michael Sam: the NFL prospect out of Missouri coming out about his homosexuality. As you can probably imagine, the masses are weighting in from both a negative and positive perspective. After hearing what everyone has said about the issue, I myself wonder where I stand.
One team owner said that Sam would not be drafted by a team because he came out about his sexuality. This owner is obviously thinking in terms of old-school negative stigma about homosexuals because like everybody knows in football, all that matters is winning. The problem I have is, what does his sexual orientation have to do with winning? Absolutely nothing. If someone can come to your program and help you win, why would you hold their sexual orientation against them? Let us be real, this guy is not the first homosexual in football, he is just the first person to be openly gay going into the NFL draft. So yes, it is possible to win with a gay football player, no doubt. If Russel Wilson were a homosexual, I would still be a fan.
One issue that players have about homosexual players is how they will interact with other men in the locker room. As a former football player, I have been in several football locker rooms and it is a close brotherhood atmosphere where a lot of talking, joking around, and trash talk takes place. NFL middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma said he would feel uncomfortable if he knew a player was of homosexual orientation and he caught that player watching him change. Which can be understandable, but let me share my experiences with a homosexual person in a locker room environment. In high school, I ran track with a runner who was homosexual. Times were a little different then and we were going to a school in the inner city, so being openly homosexual was not a good idea. He trusted me enough to be honest about his sexuality and I made sure not to tell anyone.
There is no doubt that a track atmosphere is the same as a football locker room, but the same stuff takes place: talking mess, changing clothes, et cetera. When I was around this person, I didn’t feel any different and never caught him looking at me or anything like that. He was just like the other runners on the team. Would I feel funny if he did stare at me the wrong way while changing, yes. I would also feel funny if a straight guy was to look at me as well. So speaking for myself, something like that is a privacy issue across the board; I do not want anyone looking at me change whether they are straight or homosexual. Another issue worth noting is that I am pretty sure a homosexual man is not attracted to every guy he meets. I am sure Sam is smart enough not to flirt with a player in the locker room, especially one he knows is straight.
My advice to Michael Sam is just do like the late-great Al Davis said, “Just win baby, win.” If you can win on the football field, it will eliminate any negative stigma attached to you (rather fair or not). When Michael Vick had a good football period during the 2010-2011 season taking the Philadelphia Eagles to the Playoffs, most people swept the whole “dog-fighting” incident under the rug. Winning cures all and any scrutiny anyone can attach to you. If someone calls you a “fag” on Twitter, use that anger to rip someone’s head off when you are on the field. You cannot make the whole team win on your own, but if you can dominate at your position on the field, you can shut those nay-sayers up for good. Only time will tell, but I do wish Michael Sam well in the upcoming NFL draft and his future NFL career.
Cited: The Nation || Bloomberg Businessweek