Kudos to University of Missouri’s defensive football star and prospective second- or third-round National Football League draft pick Michael Sam for his bravery, boldness and basic human right to publicly declare himself as openly gay, which scares the you-know-what out of most of the NFL’s hierarchy and a sizeable segment of insecure players.
Of course, there are too many frightened mega-rich NFL owners who are spineless with fear of drafting a publicly known gay athlete because of team issues based on (always) financial, social or religious conservatism, and, supported by some of the talented, but fearful and insecure players, and they will band together to keep gay athletes out of their locker rooms.
Actually, what those owners and players are doing is illegal according to the Constitution – they’re denying those athletes their inalienable rights of freedom.
It will be interesting to watch how the NFL owners manipulate their prejudices at the draft and where Sam will end up. Hopefully one of the few NFL teams who want good, team-oriented grid talent will draft him high and make him a pro football equal.
Football is definitely not the only pro sport with the reluctance, and guts, to break the “draft the openly gay player barrier,” because most major pro sports have their issues on the subject and can’t act on making history by accepting gay players and letting them compete as themselves.
Sam’s willingness to be a pioneer in football is a brave move and will pay off for him, and the gay community, in the long run.
It’s going to be a watershed moment for the NFL, as it was for Major League Baseball, when Jackie Robinson broke the racial barrier as the first black pro player in the Major Leagues and, when referring to being brave, bold and a seeker of basic human rights, you are describing Robinson, who was scorned into succeeding on, and off, the field.
It was also way more dangerous for Robinson at that time in American history than it will be for a gay man or woman athlete now, because many in the past, segments of the United States were prejudice against people of color and there were dangers involved then, as there are now.
Like the knowledgeable, award-winning San Francisco Chronicle sports writer Bruce Jenkins so poignantly stated in his column on this subject last week, it was the person who brought Jackie Robinson to Major League Baseball and into the Brooklyn Dodgers clubhouse, Branch Rickey.
Jenkins asks the question of who will be the NFL’s Branch Rickey?
It’s the perfect question at the perfect time, with Sam testing the NFL waters through the draft as a proud gay man and athlete ready and eager to begin his pro grid career.
Before Sam declared being gay, veteran pro basketball player Jason Collins came out publicly as gay with plenty of time before the current NBA season began to be signed by a team, but it shamefully didn’t happen.
The main reason cited by most of the teams for not signing him was that he was at the end of his career and on the verge of retirement and that he might not hold up as a backup center for a team in need of one and it would be better served going young.