All-American defensive end Michael Sam was recently named SEC Defensive Player of the Year for his outstanding performance with the Missouri Tigers in the 2013 season. Now entering the 2014 NFL Draft, Sam has been projected to be a fourth or fifth round pick. Oh, and he recently came out as the first openly gay NFL Draft prospect in NFL history. Shocking, isn’t it? Only a fourth or fifth round pick after his stellar play at Missouri?
Michael Sam’s courageous decision to come out just months before the NFL Draft has caused quite a buzz throughout the football world, in both positive and negative ways. In a beneficial way, Sam is breaking boundaries that hopefully will pave the way for a more open-minded disposition in the world of sports. Negatively, he has made a small number of selfish, narrow-minded players feel uncomfortable. Funny how certain players in the NFL who consider themselves the manliest of men are afraid of a change that will affect them in no way whatsoever. If these players become teammates with Sam, the only thing they will have to get used to is playing with a rookie.
Upon returning the University of Missouri after defeating the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the Cotton Bowl, the 2013 Missouri Tigers football team proudly displayed their trophy during halftime at a school basketball game, with none other than Michael Sam hoisting the silver souvenir high above his head. Fans in the stadium gave Sam a thundering standing ovation. His support by the students did not end there, though. The despicable group known as the Westboro Baptist Church planned on picketing Sam’s return, referring to him as a sinner. In response, university students created a human blockade to prevent the extremist pigs from entering. The outcry of supportive words for Sam reaches far beyond his alma mater.
In an interview with ESPN about what players will think, Sam was quoted saying, “Hopefully it will be the same like my locker room.” A large number of athletes took to Twitter to support Sam, with Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams tweeting, “I could care less about a man’s sexual preference! I care about winning games and being respectful in the locker room!” However, other players’ opinions differ greatly.
New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma interviewed with the NFL Network about the subject, and said, “Imagine if he’s the guy next to me, and I get naked taking a shower, and it just so happens he looks at me. How am I supposed to respond?” Good question, Jonathan Vilma. Your ignorant statement goes hand-in-hand with thousands of homophobes who believe that every gay man is sexually attracted to every man in the world.
Michael Sam’s acceptance in the locker room should, and hopefully will be like every other rookie’s experience. A player’s sexual orientation should play absolutely no role in his or her success, or acceptance by their team. Unfortunately, the world of sports is still not entirely accepting of gay athletes, but Michael Sam’s decision to come out will certainly change many peoples’ perspectives, and hopefully, inspire other athletes hiding in the dark to show their true selves without fear.