No sooner had Michael Sam made history by being the first openly gay football player drafted into the National Football League, than the haters began to steal the headlines.
Sam’s bravery in coming out and thereby exposing himself to the cruelty to which so many others have been subjected, as he was on the verge of becoming a millionaire professional football player, has been well documented. The repercussions were predictable, even in this day and age.
We want to believe that as a society, we have learned from our past ignorances, but attitudes when it comes to homosexuality are tough to change.
Sam was ranked 90th overall in the 2014 draft, until the day he made his sexuality known.
He dropped to 160th overall within 24 hours.
A less-than-impressive showing at the scouting combine (a series of physical and mental tests college players perform prior to the draft), dropped him even further.
Then, on May 10, the 6’2”, 255-pound defensive end from the University of Missouri was drafted by the St. Louis Rams.
The fact that it took until the seventh round, 249th overall, out of 256 players, for Sam, the co-winner of the SEC’s 2013 Defensive Player of the Year to be selected (an award he won before coming out) speaks volumes for how NFL management teams feel about homosexuality in their sport. Their actions, in passing up on this talent again and again, tells you all you need to know.
Incidentally, Clint Mosley – the player that shared the SEC award with Sam – was drafted 17th overall.
What is even more absurd than draft day itself are some of the social media comments that immediately followed the selection.
One of the most publicized reactions to Sam’s selection came from Maurice Price, a football player for the Calgary Stampeders.
“My faith won’t let me accept what took place over the weekend. Sorry, not sorry! #AdamAndEve #NotAdamAndAdam” was his tweet.
Your faith, Maurice? Really? Here’s an idea. Flip a few pages of that “good book” of yours, until you come to the part about the tattoos all over your arms. Shouldn’t be hard to find. It’s the chapter right after the one decrying homosexuality.
Do us all a favour, Maurice – don’t shield your homophobia with the Bible.
“OMG, Horrible” was what another football player, Miami Dolphin Don Jones, tweeted.
Adding to the surprise of these reactions is that both Price and Jones are of African descent.
One would think that if any group of athletes would be particularly supportive of such a trailblazing event, it would be athletes of African descent.
Did Jackie Robinson not teach you guys anything?
Had it not been for that man’s bravery, breaching the colour barrier of Major League Baseball on April 15, 1947, you would likely have not even received scholarships, never mind getting paid a king’s ransom to dress up in tights and play a game.
Had Sam stayed the course and kept quiet – as most gay athletes do during their professional careers – he would likely be negotiating a seven-figure income right now.
His reasons for coming out at such an impressionable time in his life were his own. And really, they shouldn’t matter.
There will come a day when coming out does not make news. There will come a day when two men, or two women, holding hands in public will be no less socially awkward than an inter-racial couple doing the same.
There will come a day when we talk about Michael Sam in the same vein as we talk about Jackie Robinson.
Forty years from now, when homosexuality is as openly accepted as multiculturalism, the likes of Maurice Price and Don Jones will be looked upon with disdain. For the likes of Michael Sam, that day can not come soon enough.
Terry Farrell is the editor at the Comox Valley Record.