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 #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world, with over 150 camps in 30+ U.S. states and Canada. We discuss problems in youth sports today, including single sport specialization, the growing gap between the “haves” and “have-nots,” the high drop-out rate in competitive sports, and the growing mental health challenges young athletes are dealing with today.
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Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
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.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
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.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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