Out and proud: Michael Sam announced his homosexuality before next season’s draft. *MCT photo
Out and proud: Michael Sam announced his homosexuality before next season’s draft. *MCT photo

Michael Sam, the NFL draft prospect from Missouri, followed in the footsteps of NBA player Jason Collins and last week said two words that will impact his career for the rest of his life… “I’m gay”.

The reaction to the All-American defensive lineman coming out has been mixed.  

Many opted to voice their opinions publicly via Twitter or primetime television, while some within the NFL organization took a more cowardly approach and chose to remain nameless.

In an interview with Sports Illustrated, one NFL executive stated: “I don’t think football is ready for [an openly gay player] just yet. 

“In the coming decade or two, it’s going to be acceptable, but at this point in time it’s still a man’s-man game. To call somebody a [gay slur] is still so commonplace. It’d chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room.” 

When asked how this revelation would impact Sam’s draft prospects, an NFL scout was quoted as saying: “I just know with this going on this is going to drop him down.

“There’s no question about it. It’s human nature. Do you want to be the team to quote-unquote ‘break that barrier’?”

With that type of reaction, it appears the NFL is under the assumption there are presently no gay players in their locker rooms. 

If that is their belief, they are living in a rainbow fantasy land. Maybe the word ‘openly’ is the catalyst that somehow makes everything  real. 

Perhaps the NFL adopted the U.S Military style philosophy of ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell?’  

Past and present players also had mixed reactions. For example, DeAngelo Williams of the Carolina Panthers tweeted: “I could not care less about a man’s sexual preference. I care about winning games and being respectful in the locker room!” 

Whereas New Orleans Saints LB Jonathon Vilma stated in an interview on the NFL Network: “Imagine if he’s the guy next to me, and you know, I get dressed, naked, taking a shower, the whole nine, and it just so happens he looks at me, how am I supposed to respond?”  Really Vilma, don’t flatter yourself. 

In fairness to Vilma, he later retracted his statement on CNN, stating it was ‘the wrong context to use’.

Despite the world protesting at the Olympics against Russia’s anti-gay legislations, the NFL is still disinclined to accept an openly gay man to their organization. 

But before acceptance, there needs to be education to eradicate the ignorance and fear associated with the word homosexual.  

Gay men can still be part of the locker-room “man’s-man club” and gay men are not perpetually desiring the man next to them.

How about the notion that Michael Sam would be a “distraction” to their team? So let’s get this straight, being gay could potentially be a distraction to your team, yet teammates being indicted for rape, battery, DUI, drug possession and murder are not distractions?  

Is the latter the new NFL norm? Former wide receiver Donte Stallworth crushes that theory with his contradicting tweet: “If your organization can’t handle media attention…they will suck on the field anyway... but, hey, there’s always 2015!”

While Sam is setting up to be the first openly gay player in America’s favourite pastime, the question remains, should an openly-gay athlete be accepted by a professional sports organization and its team-mates?

The answer is, absolutely. If a player has the talent and drive to make it professionally, coupled with dedicated focus to consistently assist their team in generating wins, their sexual orientation should not be a topic for condemnation.

A player should be judged on their ability to play the game, not who they choose to have relationships with off the field.

For those who disagree, ask yourself this — if your team is in a Championship game, would you give a damn if the player catching the winning touchdown was gay or straight?

The reality is the NFL and their homophobic mindset will not change overnight. 

Nevertheless, we must continue to be optimistic and believe one day — similar to black quarterbacks —  gays will be genuinely accepted in the NFL and the locker-rooms. Let’s just hope it’s not in a ‘decade or two’. 

Follow Bobbi Singh on  Twitter @sportschickca.