10 February 2014

Michael Sam

I want to congratulate Michael Sam for his coming out. Doing so takes courage for anyone, but for an athlete in college about to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL, this is extremely important. First of all please remember that Michael Sam could have remained quiet and trusted in his teammates at Missouri to keep his secret. Doing so after leaving the University would have placed an undue burden upon Michael as he enters the next phase in his young life. Imagine the uproar that would have been caused if he made this announcement after being drafted. People would have called him a liar and claimed far worse things about him than some uneducated people already will. Michael would have been accused of being dishonest and bringing the issue to a team that was unprepared for the public scrutiny that would result. By coming out now, Michael haas removed that obstacle.

Please remember one thing. Michael came out to his teammates at Missouri last August. I find the fact that no one let his then-secret out amazing and encouraging. Michael should be extremely proud of his teammates, and I am sure that they are equally proud of him.

Michael still has plenty of hurdles to clear. He runs the risk of having NFL teams refusing to draft him in some part due to his sexual orientation. No NFL team would ever admit to this, of course. It would be a matter of he isn’t big enough, he isn’t fast enough, etc. Now those issues are still valid, but the burden of proof cannot be shifted back to Michael having lied, or not admitted to, being gay. It will be interesting to see what happens with the draft. Michael has presented the NFL with an opportunity to make a statement by having one of their teams select him in the draft. Personally, I wish Michael the very best and a long and successful career in the NFL and for the rest of his life. Remember that Michael has in no small way put his future at risk with this announcement. The opportunity to make millions of dollars is at stake here.

If Michael is drafted by an NFL team, he will have to build the level of trust in himself among his teammates as a football player first and foremost. I hope that we have passed the time when an openly gay player would have been the target of a deliberate attempt at injury, but that remains to be seen. At any rate, Michael has once again proven that he will face up to these challenges by being who he is, and not who people think he should be.

I have seen articles comparing Michael to Jackie Robinson. There is a degree of validity to this argument. Michael will enter an arena where people like him have historically been unwelcome. Michael is different in the sense that who he is is not strictly based on his race. Michael could have willingly concealed his true personality and hoped for the best. Jackie Robinson never had that opportunity due to the obvious color of his skin, and that is something that will always shame us when we look back at those days. Michael has chosen to be the target for those who disagree with who he is in the same way that Jackie Robinson did. The difference is that Michael represents a segment of the population that has, for far too long, hidden from the rest of society. Many LGBT have the luxury of being able to do so. Coming out is a huge event to any LGBT person, the sense of relief is indescribable. I applaud Michael Sam for his courage and wish him the very best. I hope that his example proves to society that we can move forward and prosper together without people having to suffer second or third class status. We are all stronger when we are all free.