By Ken Reed

Michael Sam, the SEC’s defensive player of the year, has publicly come out as a gay athlete. The SEC is college football’s premier football conference. Sam is a big-time player. Which means based on talent alone, he should be drafted by an NFL team in the upcoming NFL draft.

Now the question is, what will Sam’s announcement do to his draft stock? Is there a progressive-minded NFL owner, GM or coach willing to draft Sam on his merits as an elite football player? Will an openly gay player be accepted by the NFL?

Because he’s a little undersized for the NFL, Sam was projected to be drafted anywhere from the 3rd to the 6th round of the NFL draft, prior to his announcement. If he now goes undrafted it will be a travesty. He’s clearly talented enough to be an NFL player.

It’s possible he won’t be drafted at all. Consider this less-than-forward piece of thinking from an NFL player personnel evaluator:

“I don’t think football is ready for [an openly gay player] just yet. In the coming decade or two, it’s going to be acceptable, but at this point in time it’s still a man’s-man game. To call somebody a [gay slur] is still so commonplace. It’d chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room.”

Can you believe this guy? “Still a man’s-man game … It’d chemically imbalance an NFL locker room …” Unreal.

At any rate, the real story here is Sam’s courageous willingness to be true to himself publicly as the draft and NFL training camps loom. As SportsOnEarth columnist Chuck Culpepper writes, “In his capacity to hurl aside fear, he already does know how to live a life.”

Sam stepped up to squarely face his fears. Now the rest of us, as a society, must do the same. Anxieties must be addressed in the name of positive social change.

Jeb Lund put it brilliantly when he wrote, “[T]he big problem of recoiling from change, to spare the people who enjoy things as they are from feeling anxious, is that it privileges people frightened of the future over people with legitimate reason to be frightened over the present. It nurtures and protects ignorance and/or unfamiliarity as something vulnerable and worth preserving, rather than challenging those attitudes and nurturing groups at real risk of violence, social stigma and political impotence. It infantilizes us and lets us believe that hiding under the covers in the dark rather than reaching for the light is the reasonable corrective for a belief in monsters. It takes pains to keep those who enjoy the status quo from enduring any, and in exchange it tells people already marginalized by or ostracized from parts of society that it is for their own good to remain out in the cold.”


–Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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