Michael Sam’s coming out shows NFL’s true colors

As the sports editor for the Valley Vanguard and a fan of many sports, one of which is professional football, I took an interest in the situation regarding the University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam.

On February 9, Sam announced during an interview on ESPN that he was homosexual. Since then, numerous news networks, talk-show hosts and radio broadcasters have discussed and debated how the National Football League (NFL) would react, in regards to his draft position and the locker rooms of the teams themselves.

Originally, Sam was predicted to be a third-or fourth-round draft pick, yet Sports Illustrated received quotes from anonymous executives in the NFL that his draft stock would probably fall due to his announcement. Many have speculated that these quotes come from the fact that the media will no doubt be up close and personal wherever Sam is, being that he could be the first openly gay player in the NFL.

This is probably the issue that concerns me the most. NFL owners talk about how they don’t want distractions in the locker room such as a heavy media presence regarding Sam’s personal life, yet former NFL quarterback and Florida Gator Tim Tebow was not only drafted highly, but managed to stick around on NFL rosters for three years despite the fact that he not only brought a media circus with him. This was mostly due to his popularity stemming from his college career and his religious beliefs, but he was simply an atrocious professional quarterback.

Yahoo! Sports posted an article discussing the reactions of the coaches and executives compared to the reactions of the players themselves. Across the league, players on rosters now and those who have retired have shown support for Sam.

Furthermore, Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show” did a hilarious piece regarding the anonymous quotes worried about the media circus that would surround Sam. Stewart talked about how numerous players have brought controversy upon their signing. He hit the nail on the head when referencing controversial players who have been stars in the league despite issues such as DUI vehicular manslaughter, obstruction of justice in regards to a murder case and killing a bunch of dogs and burying them in the backyard.

Players who have been accused or convicted of these actions are perfectly fine on NFL rosters, with owners and management not concerned about the controversy or the media surrounding them, yet Sam’s coming out would be a distraction? Laughable.

On Feb. 9, Sam also said that he had announced to his team back in August that he was gay, and the players, coaches and university officials had the class and respect to keep his personal life private. Oh, and the Missouri Tigers went 12-2, 7-1 in the best conference in college football, along with an appearance at the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Championship and a Cotton Bowl win over Oklahoma State. Sam’s sexual orientation didn’t seem to be all that distracting in college.

One would hope that the NFL would like to be at the front of civil change and acceptance, yet it appears that it has fallen behind. Numerous states across the country have passed legislation making gay marriage legal, yet NFL owners are concerned about locker room distractions and media buzz. Again, these are the same locker rooms that house players from different backgrounds, some being more criminal than others, but the NFL deems this to be acceptable controversy.

When we look at Sam from a fundamentally football viewpoint, he does have his shortcomings. He led the SEC in sacks with 11 and a half sacks, and was named the SEC Co-Player of the Year along with Alabama’s C.J. Mosley. That being said, Sam is a bit undersized for a traditional NFL defensive end. At 6’2,” 255 pounds, he seems better fitted as a linebacker if he has the quickness and can drop a few pounds. Most NFL defensive ends are considerably taller with a longer reach.

At the end of the day, if Sam can play at the NFL level, then he should play. Players don’t care about your personal life as long as on the field, you’re winning. “Winning cures all,” is a common quote tossed around multiple sports, and it is very true here. Missouri won with Sam leading the defense. Even Tim Tebow had multiple shots in the NFL despite the media distractions, simply because teams won when he played quarterback.

While the NFL has been called a homophobic league by some in the media, I truly hope that Sam can be drafted, make a professional roster and perform. Nobody’s private life should spawn this much controversy, and when it comes down to business, if you can perform your job, you should be commended without concern about controversy. Perhaps the reaction throughout the NFL is a reflection on society, but I hope that we have progressed beyond the bigotry and short-sightedness displayed by some in the NFL.

Here’s to hoping Sam has a great career in the NFL. I commend him for his courage off the field and his skills on the field.

This entry was posted on Monday, February 17th, 2014 and is filed under Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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