Former Missouri linebacker Michael Sam is now a member of the St. Louis Rams of the National Football League. Sam was drafted by the Rams in the seventh round; he was the 249th player taken by an NFL team.
It is unlikely that any player drafted this late has received so much media coverage. Sam, though, isn’t like other players. Michael Sam is openly gay.
it is troubling that Michael Sam is suddenly being labeled as an ambassador.
Rarely does a seventh-round pick garner more than a paragraph on a major news site; the fact is, many of these late selections will be cut from their teams’ rosters, a few weeks after NFL training camps open. Whether he makes the Rams final roster or not, Sam is the biggest 2014 NFL draft story, this side of Johnny Manziel, the flashy quarterback drafted by the Cleveland Browns.
Sam being drafted into the NFL received nationwide coverage. CBS Sports ran videos of Sam receiving the news and of the reaction at a gay bar, along with the tweet above that included a picture of Sam kissing another man. The CBS Sports story said: “Already it appears as if Sam is an ambassador and, hopefully, a man who can usher in a new era of social progress in the NFL. It remains to be seen whether he’s actually good enough to find a spot on the football field.”
While it is of paramount importance in a free nation that gay men have the same opportunities as heterosexual men, in an office or on the football field, it is troubling that Michael Sam is suddenly being labeled as an ambassador. Sam is a football player, and if the NFL draft is any indication, he may be below average by league standards; with 248 players selected ahead of him, it’s certainly valid to question Sam’s NFL readiness. One must wonder if Michael Sam weren’t gay, would he have been drafted at all?
Should openly gay men be able to compete at the highest level, without scrutiny or bias? Undoubtedly. Is it naive to believe that this is possible? Perhaps.
These questions, though, should not stop us from accepting alternative lifestyles, without constantly sensationalizing them.
Some NFL players might be vegans. Others may be wear nothing but tie dye. These men are definitely in the minority among others in the sport. If a vegan were drafted 249th, would it be national news? Would he be an ambassador for veganism?
Michael Sam will likely be gay for the rest of his life. How long he’ll be a linebacker in the National Football League remains to be seen. If Sam is cut in August, he’ll be just another late-round pick, who was always a long shot to make the team.
When Sam’s days in the NFL end, his sexual preference won’t matter anymore. Just as it shouldn’t matter now.