When Michael Sam was drafted to the St. Louis Rams in this year’s NFL Draft, he made history by being the first openly gay player in professional football. When he received the news that he made it, ESPN aired a long, unedited cut of Sam emotionally and repeatedly kissing and hugging his boyfriend– a move that was pretty bold for the Disney owned company. Reactions mostly ranged from overwhelming support to indifference.
HuffPost Gay Voices Editor Michelangelo Signorile urged Facebook to stage a “Kiss-In” in support of Sam, dozens of articles discussed the need to normalize seeing gay affection, and then of course, there were the ignorant bigots who came up to the line.
“I’m sorry but that Michael Sam is no bueno for doing that on national tv,” former Super Bowl champion Derrick Ward tweeted.
“Man U got little kids lookin at the draft. I can’t believe ESPN even allowed that to happen.”
Miami Dolphins safety, Don Jones also expressed his bigoted opinion, tweeting “horrible” and “OMG.” He deleted those comments and the Dolphins said he is paying an undisclosed fine and is barred from team activities until he finishes “training for his recent comments made on social media.”
It’s 2014, why are there people who are still so shocked, outraged and even disgusted by the affection shown between two men?
It is clear that society is becoming ever more progressive each day, however it looks like the sports world is one of the final frontiers of tolerance. Sports, and football in particular, are an area of hyper-masculinity where anything that deviates from the heteronormative order is threatening. Football functions on the idea of giant beasts competing against one another in an extremely primal way– something that is not bad on its own.
However, it has gotten to the point where this hyper masculine game is being perpetuated through the use of sex and sexism, portraying male dominance and female sexuality and submissiveness with every ad that supports and defines it. It makes sense, unfortunately, that when figures like Sam come into the game, so many of the players feel threatened and bothered enough to spew hateful statements.
However, that doesn’t excuse it. At all. There needs to be more than repercussions or re-education after these words are said– there needs to be a change in the culture of football.
Let’s listen to what Sam has to say, and just treat him like any other player we admire. “I just wish you guys would see me as Michael Sam the football player, not Michael Sam the gay football player.”