On the bench: Michael Sam

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We’ve all now had some time to decide what to make of Michael Sam’s mid-February announcement that he is gay.

The media and fans have brought up many questions about this: Was it the right time to make the announcement? Can an NFL locker room handle a gay player? How would this affect his draft status in the upcoming 2014 NFL draft, on May 8 through 10.

I’m a strong supporter and very proud of the athletes who are showing the bravery to come out as gay athletes. Sam isn’t the first male athlete to come out. In the past two years, basketball player Jason Collins, soccer player Robbie Rodgers and boxer Orlando Cruz, among other athletes, have talked openly about their homosexuality. Esteemed people like NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, President Obama and First Lady Michelle

Obama have all supported Sam’s announcement, calling his courage inspiring.

The timing of the announcement has come into question. Was it was a good or poor decision for Sam to come out before the draft?

I think he made a smart decision, as it will avoid surprising his teammates in the future. Sam has laid all his cards out on the table and essentially told teams to judge him on his merits like every other player, rather than his personal preferences. His on-field talent is good enough to make him worthy of being drafted, but every year, we hear of how off-field issues prevent players from being drafted higher. Although coming out as a gay athlete shouldn’t hinder his prospects, it will still cause discussions in the front offices of every team.

Each team must look at its current roster of players to decide whether it would cause problems having Sam in the locker room. These men get paid to be professional and play a game they love, so why shouldn’t Sam get the chance to do the same. just because those other players may feel uncomfortable or awkward? Millions of dollars might make it a bit more comfortable for these players if they just look at what their alternatives could be.

Just keep your mouth shut, play the game you love and collect your check. Don’t be ignorant about something that doesn’t concern you.

In a power and performance sport like football, there are concerns with how the rest of the league might handle the situation, especially in the locker room. I don’t see how this could be an problem that alarms other players. Are we to think that adults who get paid to play a sport they love can’t deal with a similar situation as a group of college students?

Prior to the 2013 season, while still at the University of Missouri, Sam told his teammates and coaches that he was gay. The secret never left the locker room and the Tigers went on to have one of their most successful seasons, finishing 10-2 for the season, and Sam won Co-Defensive Player of the Year in the Southeastern Conference. If a group of his college teammates can be tolerant and have a great season with him, then why can’t the same be expected from a group of professional adults?

Sam’s sexuality should not play a part in whether he will be drafted this May, but it probably will. Although many current NFL players have supported Sam, some have expressed apprehensions, along with a few administrators — who wanted to remain nameless — who have specified that this may not have been the best time to make this statement. Sam is expected to be taken sometime on the second or third day of the draft, between the third and fifth rounds. If Sam does fall in the draft, the team that drafts him is going to be satisfied with the decision. They will get a player who has something to prove and will give his all to show he belongs with the rest of the guys.

Football is the most popular sport in this country and should be groundbreaking in the way it expands its fan base and player diversity. This will be a good thing for the league if they handle it in the right way. If there is any kind of harassment, like that of the Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin situation toward Michael Sam, then the NFL will be involved in a public relations nightmare. A negative portrayal of the league is something the NFL will avoid at any cost.
Having an openly gay player in the NFL is the next logical step for not only the sport but also the country. If gay soldiers can protect our freedoms, then why can’t gay athletes entertain us every week?

 

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