By Ken Reed
Michael Sam had the courage to be true to himself. He decided to out himself before a snoopy reporter or stone-age NFL scout decided to do it for him.
He faced his fears and told the world “This is who I am.” Now the NFL needs to face its collective fear, “How do we deal with a gay man in our league?” and do the right thing.
They need to get on the right side of history on this issue.
Sure, it will be challenging for the NFL team that drafts Sam. Being the first to do anything draws attention. Training camp could indeed be a media circus. (You don’t think the Houston training camp will be a media circus filled with distractions if the Texans draft Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Football Manziel?) But all the attention will be for a positive reason: moving our society forward.
Legally, this issue has all kinds of civil rights ramifications. Morally, it has all kinds of Golden Rule implications.
Progress isn’t easy. Doing the right thing isn’t easy. It certainly would’ve been easier for Branch Rickey to abide by MLB’s color line instead of signing Jackie Robinson. (Jackie Robinson certainly was a distraction for the Dodgers’ manager and players his first season.) It wasn’t easy for Billie Jean King to be a Title IX activist, play the sexist Bobby Riggs, and start the Women’s Sports Foundation. But millions of girls and women are glad she did.
Michael Sam can play. He’s the reigning SEC defensive player of the year. He might be a little short and he may never be an All-Pro but he can play in the NFL.
The NFL journey won’t be easy for Sam. And it won’t be easy for the NFL GM and head coach that draft him. They’ll have to answer a lot of repetitive and sometimes silly questions in front of cameras.
But if a GM and head coach determine that Sam can help their team, then they are compelled to draft him — professionally and morally. If Sam goes undrafted, it will be a tragedy given that we’re living in the year 2014, and it will be a black mark on the NFL.
As Dallas-Ft. Worth sports anchor Dale Hansen pointed out in his stinging commentary this week, the Michael Sam issue is making a lot of people uncomfortable.
But here’s hoping NFL owners, execs, coaches, players, reporters and fans can face their uncomfortable feelings, accept them, and do the right thing.
Martin Luther King said it best, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO. He discusses the use of Native American names and logos by sports teams and the decisions to drop the Chief Wahoo logo and the upcoming change to the team name. Other baseball topics include health and safety, possible MLB rule changes and youth participation in the sport.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
Episode #9 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader – Nader is a consumer advocate and was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. He is the founder of League of Fans.
Episode #8 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Save College Sports From Overcommercialization and Professionalization? – The guest is Dr. David Ridpath, a sports business professor and past president of the Drake Group
Episode #7 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Brain Trauma and CTE Risk in Sports With Dr. Ann McKee – Dr. McKee works in the field of neuropathology and has demonstrated that “mild” repetitive head trauma can provoke chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a devastating neurodegenerative disease.
Episode #6 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Need for Quality Physical Education in Our Schools is Greater Than Ever – The guest is Clayton Ellis, one of our nation’s leading advocates for getting our young people to be more physically active.
Episode #5 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Youth Sports with Positive Coaching Alliance Founder Jim Thompson – Thompson started Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) in 1998 to help create a movement to transform the culture of youth sports from “win-at-all-costs” to a positive, character-building experience.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
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