Now that Michael Sam has been drafted by the Rams as the first openly gay football player to be drafted by an NFL team, (one of the last selections) all that remains is for him to make the team. If he doesn’t make the team, the importance of the moment will be diminished. If fact, in order for this to have any meaning at all, he must make the team. If Jackie Robinson had not become the star player he was, (rookie of the year and Hall of Famer), the integration of Major League Baseball would have taken longer. But is the acceptance of gay players the same as the acceptance of black players? The question is not as simple as it might seem. After all, anytime any barrier is broken, progress is made. Or is it? In an interview regarding his late pick in the draft Sam said, “From last season alone, I should’ve been in the first three rounds. SEC Defensive Player of the Year, All-American.” He didn’t actually say that he believed his coming out affected his being picked late in the draft but everyone, including Sam, was thinking it.
Despite all of the strides that have been made regarding equality, athletes, “Jocks”, football players in particular, continue all of the negative stereotypes about gay men. Football is a game based on machismo; who’s the toughest and the meanest? Anyone who has ever stepped into a football locker room at any level understands this. Being a black athlete is no longer an issue that needs to be addressed today but being a gay athlete, still carries many stereotypes. Can gay and tough be synonymous? Obviously, since there have certainly been many great players prior to Michael Sam who never came out. If Sam makes the team and puts a hurting on quarterbacks, this issue will at last become moot. No different than Jackie Robinson.
In the meantime, only time will tell if other Michael Sam’s follow. Despite Sam’s announcement, nothing else has changed. The culture of football remains and no other players, at least so far, are willing to put themselves on the line. If no other players come out, the road will be longer. But ultimately and most importantly, we must change as a society and that doesn’t happen through legislation or punishment. Parents, must teach respect, morals and decency to their children. Then and only then will our society truly change.