Michael Sam story bigger than it needs to be

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

Rhys Williams/ Columnist

It is 2014 and a man came out as openly gay to the nation. Some may not think that this is a big deal, but it’s who he is and what he does for a living that has made it big time news.

Michael Sam is a 6-foot-2, 255 pound defensive lineman who played football for the University of Missouri Tigers. That man is the Co-Defensive Player of the Year for arguably the best conference in college football, the Southeastern Conference, and led his team to a 12-2 season in his final collegiate year, including an AT&T Cotton Bowl win over Oklahoma State University 41-31.

In an interview with Chris Connelly of ESPN’s Outside the Lines, Sam said it the most basic way that he could.

“I am a gay man. I happen to be one,” Sam said. “I’m not afraid of who I am. I am not afraid to tell the world who I am. I am Michael Sam. I’m a college graduate. I’m African-American and I’m gay.”

It’s not that big of a deal. He is a beast of a football player who, in my opinion, is a top 10 defensive player and an early round draft pick. On seeing him play and hearing about him throughout the 2013-2014 college football season, if I were an NFL team executive, I would take him in the second or third round.

In our current time and society, there is no way that his being gay should be as big of a deal as it is.

Yes, the sports world is behind the times in some ways, with one of them being the possibility of the first openly gay athlete in professional football, but it is not a change that I didn’t expect at some time within the next few years.

As a former football player, but mostly as a young man, I would have been fine with having a teammate who was gay as long as it was not a distraction to the wellbeing of the team and if he could help us win.

That should be the case here. Now, yes, there are people who have come out more anonymously saying that it isn’t the best fit in a locker room, including New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma; and, yes, there will always be people against having an openly gay man in a “manly-man’s” sport but the same thing happened with desegregation in regards to minorities in sports and we know what happened with that.

I don’t think that Sam will be the Jackie Robinson of the LGBTQ community for sports unless he goes out for whatever team drafts him, leads a defense to a number one ranking for a couple of years and gets a few championship rings… but he won’t have his number retired by every team in the NFL.

I do, however, think that the media has blown this up to bigger than it should be. If he can separate his play on the field with his personal life, which we have seen that he can do as he put up insane numbers in his final collegiate campaign — 48 tackles, 19 of those for of 97 yards, 11.5 sacks for 71 yards lost, two pass breakups, nine quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery for 21 yards — then let him play at the level he deserves to play and the level he has worked his whole life to earn.

Watching his performance, I think that the best fits would be with the Philadelphia Eagles, who need an improvement on the defensive line pretty badly, or the Baltimore Ravens, who showed a clear lack of defensive power after losing future Hall of Famers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.

That is what it boils down to, though.

I acknowledge that I am being repetitive, but if he is a great football player who can do something positive on the field for an NFL franchise, let the man play. Plain and simple.

 

-rhys.williams@fiusm.com

 

About the Author

Rhys Williams
: Sports Director, Class of 2016, Physical Education: Coaching (Major), Communication Arts (Minor), Sports Enthusiast with a Focus on Football and Track & Field.

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