It’s often difficult to gauge the realities of a controversial situation usually until much time has passed. If you like back at critical moments in the world of sports, this point is often proven. Take guys like Fritz Pollard and Jackie Robinson who faced incredibly difficult circumstances as the broke the color barriers in professional football and baseball respectively.
With each man facing any number of vicious attacks both verbal and physical, they managed to persevere.
Michael Sam now becomes the next Pollard and the next Robinson as he becomes the first openly gay man drafted into the National Football League. As the seventh round began on Saturday, the attention of both ESPN and the NFL Network started to shift towards Sam. It was not long ago that he announced his sexuality admitting that he had told his Missouri teammates back in August.
He and the Tigers won the SEC East Division and lost to Auburn in the SEC Title Game. Sam had an excellent ear and was eventually named SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year. Despite being a bit undersized, or what scouts call a “tweener,” Sam was still viewed as a third or fourth round pick.
As Friday evening’s festivities wound down it became more and more obvious that Sam would not be taken on the draft’s second day.
A Conspiracy of Sorts?
Michael Sam eventually got the call he had been waiting for when late in the seventh and final round, the St. Louis Rams called to tell him he was drafted. The emotional response was understandable. It cannot be easy to have walked in his shoes in recent months especially after his announcement and then a poor combine effort in Indianapolis.
Being drafted so late meant that social media was abuzz with the speculation that the Rams were simply doing the league a favor by drafting him. First of all, it’s good PR and second of all it would have looked bad had he gone undrafted. Why? Because maybe it would have sent the signal that the NFL wasn’t quite as ready for a gay player as we had assumed.
There is no proof to this conspiracy theory and there won’t be. What’s done is done and even though he was drafted, there is no guarantee that Sam will make the 53-man roster come early September.
Social Media Ups and Downs
Not surprisingly, the immediate response following the drafting and then reaction of Michael Sam was swift and full of both positive and negative thoughts. From Miami Dolphins’ safety Don Jones’ ignorant tweet to the Texas Longhorns’ quarterback Case McCoy’s likewise comment, it was this way all afternoon. The fact the Sam planted a kiss on his boyfriend in front of the nation immediately after his phone call left many speechless for better or for worse.
While the positive far outweighed the negative, it only got worse when Mississippi basketball star Marshall Henderson put out a series of homophobic tweets. No long after, he announced that he doing an experiment for a ‘gay’ friend as part of a psychology class at Ole Miss. Even if that is the truth, it was a poor choice and a poor way to conduct a field study.
Thankfully, the positive comments have continued to pour in and as yesterday, only Johnny Manziel’s Cleveland Browns’ jersey was sold more than Michael Sam’s was. That says something and it has to make Sam feel good.
I hope the barriers that Michael Sam is facing in the coming months are broken down by him and I hope that a man’s sexuality become nothing more than a footnote to his future as an NFL player.