It’s been a few days now so everybody’s had a chance to try and get a grip on the big announcement from last weekend. Just in case you missed it, Mizzou DE/LB Mike Sam is a proud gay man. He’s projected as a mid-round draft pick after posting 11 sacks and 19 tackles for loss in the always tough SEC. This isn’t Chris Kluwe and Brendon Ayanbadejo warning us the day would soon come when there’d be an openly gay player in the NFL as they did last year, ironically their LAST year in the NFL. Let the record show that day has officially arrived.
As a kid growing up in the suburbs of DC I remember hearing the whispers about Redskins TE Jerry Smith. It was a well-known secret among ‘Skins fans that Smith was gay, even though some of his teammates say they had no clue on NFL Network’s superb series ‘A Football Life.’ Hall of Famer Deion Sanders tweeted the other day, “Michael Sam isn’t the 1st gay player in the NFL although he is the 1st 2 come out.” There are gay players peppered throughout all sports, statistics tell us so. The reason Jerry Smith and no one before or since has come out is the culture bred and perpetuated by the men that play the game and run the locker room. A sanctuary filled with alpha males is said to be no place for homosexual tendencies. Imagine if Sam didn’t “own his truth” as he put it and landed in a toxic environment such as the one we saw in Miami this past season. It’s so much better that this dialogue has started before a team unwittingly enters into what surely will be, on some level, a “distraction.”
Now let’s see how this thing plays out. The team that drafts Michael Sam has to have the means in place to navigate his unique situation. A team with steady, strong leadership in a city progressive enough to support such diverse thinking is key to a comfortable transition for Mike Sam. New England and Seattle come to mind but I’m sure there are many more. And just as there are advocates and allies there will be resistance along the way for Sam. What of the players who morally object to Sam’s stand and preference? Free agent receiver Patrick Crayton said “stay in the closet and keep to urself” so haters exist and they tweet! It sounds like their problem to me. This will give an added draw to Day 2 of this year’s NFL Draft, that’s for sure! Ready or not the NFL is about to have its first openly gay player.
Follow Kirk on Twitter @KirkMcEwen