North Texas Daily

Opinion: Sexual orientation shouldn’t affect draft status

Opinion: Sexual orientation shouldn’t affect draft status

Opinion: Sexual orientation shouldn’t affect draft status
February 24
23:14 2014

One week ago, only sports fans would’ve recognized the name Michael Sam. Today, the former Missouri defensive end has gained national notoriety by potentially becoming the first openly gay football player in the NFL.

Besides being gay, Sam was also the co-defensive player of the year in the Southeastern Con-ference, a fact that is getting overlooked by coaches and the media thinking he’ll be a “locker room distraction.”

It’s sad that in the midst of the gay rights movement, with the Supreme Court striking down bans on gay marriage across the country, the focus is on Sam’s sexual orientation rather than his ability.

In a press conference at the NFL Combine on Saturday, Sam had a similar request of the media.

“I just wish you guys would just see me as Michael Sam the football player instead of Michael Sam the gay football player,” he said.

Is this too much to ask? Yes, it is monumental that he would be the first openly gay player in the NFL, but as of late, he wouldn’t be the first openly gay player across the four major sports organizations.

Jason Collins signed a ten-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets and played a game against the Los Angeles Lakers’ yesterday afternoon. Collins came out as gay last spring and is the first gay player to play a game in the NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB.

Collins’ decision to come out didn’t gain nearly as much attention as Sam. Maybe he didn’t have the talent that Sam does, even though he was the 18th overall pick in the first round of the 2001 draft while Sam has been struggling to fill his new role as linebacker.

Is football considered more of a “manly” sport because the players wear pads and helmets and have more convictions than any other sport? Just because a player is gay doesn’t mean he’ll hit on everyone in the locker room. Just because a player is gay doesn’t mean he’s any less than an athlete.

A worry that many have about Sam is that he will be bullied in the locker room. A recent report discovered severe bullying within the Miami Dolphins, including homophobic language and simulating sexual acts. It would seem that he is in for much of the same.

However, he was aware of the ramifications when he came out. Obviously, he’s been in a locker room before and knows what happens. Whether or not the Dolphins’ locker room is the same atmosphere as the Mizzou locker room is irrelevant. Sam is prepared for what might happen, especially after the outpouring of support he’s received even from the likes of local sports corre-spondent, Dale Hansen.

In the wake of the 2014 Winter Olympics and the anti-gay stance that host country Russia took, the United States sent openly gay athletes like Billie Jean King and Johnny Weir as activists to protest the strict ban. The people in this country should be more accepting of homosexuality in their home sports, and to an extent, they are.

Coaches and general managers applauded Sam’s decision to come out and said that his sexual orientation wouldn’t affect his chances in the draft.

“I applaud what he did,” Cleveland Browns Coach Mike Pettine said in a New York Times in-terview. “As many coaches have said, this is a results business. Can Michael Sam help us win? If he can, there’s a good chance he’ll be a part of our football team.”

The 6 foot tall, 225 pound Sam is going into workouts later this week. He’s expected to be draft-ed in the middle rounds, if he gets drafted at all.

The officials at the Combine are in a sticky situation. If Sam doesn’t get drafted, it will forever be engrained in people’s memory that it was because he was gay, whether that’s the case or not.

Either way, coaches and general managers at the Combine should be looking only at his 40-yard-dash and vertical jump, not his sexual orientation.

Caitlyn Jones is a journalism senior and can be reached at CaitlynJones2@my.unt.edu.

Feature photo: Missouri linebacker Michael Sam (52) is congratulated by teammate Matt Hoch after returning a fumble 7 yards for a touchdown in first quarter against Southeastern Louisiana on Saturday, September 1, 2012, at Faurot Field in Columbia, Missouri. Missouri cruised, 62-10. Photo courtesy of  Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/MCT. 

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