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 #17 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports With Legendary New York Times Sports Columnist Robert Lipsyte – We chat about Lipsyte’s amazing career and some of the athletes he covered and got to know well, like Muhammad Ali, as well as his relationships with fellow sports journalists like Bob Costas and Howard Cosell.
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Episode #16 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Andrew Maraniss: Outstanding Author of Books That Focus On the Intersection of Sports, History and Social Justice.
Episode #15 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Psychology with Dr. Tim Rice. We discuss the growth of sports psychology at all levels, the positive impact that a number of high profile athletes have had by opening up, and the importance of everyone involved in sports caring for the whole athlete, mind and body.
Episode #14 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Making Sense of the Injury Pandemic in Major League Baseball – Gary McCoy is a strength, conditioning and high performance coach who has worked with several Major League Baseball organizations.
Episode #13 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Conversation With Long-Time MLB Exec Dan Evans About What’s Right With Baseball and What Could Be Better – Evans is a former general manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers and is currently a consultant for Go the Distance Baseball, which owns the Field of Dreams movie site.
Episode #12 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Fun Chat With Dan Gutman, Author of the Baseball Card Adventure Series for Kids
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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