Michael Vick killed dogs; the Eagles welcomed him in. Riley Cooper publicly screamed the n-word; Eagles kept him. Ray Lewis was guilty of obstruction of justice in a murder case that you do not have to look far to realize he had more to do with; Ravens were so put off by this, they built their team around him as their face and leader of the franchise. Ben Roethlisberger was involved in a rape case that led to a civil suit which was “settled”; the Steelers, the NFL bastion of civility, kept him on after a 4-game suspension (even lowered by the NFL from 6). Leonard Little committed a DWI manslaughter and the Rams overlooked it – just as they did when he committed yet another DWI later in his career.
But Michael Sam, committing no crimes, but daring to be himself, an openly gay man, is a distraction.
The NFL is a strange, narrow-minded beast. You know what constitutes an actual distraction to the NFL and the media who surrounds it? Remember when Tony Romo went on a vacation with Jessica Simpson during the Cowboys playoff bye-week in 2008? Tony Romo was crucified for sitting on a beach and relaxing on his off week, as opposed to, you know, sitting on his couch and relaxing on his off week.
Michael Sam came out to his teammates in August of 2013. That’s right. August, September, October, November, December, January, February – perhaps even beyond – nary a word leaked about a gay football player at a Division I school. Amazing. His teammates not only found this to not be a distraction, but willingly kept the secret hidden until he wanted to tell the world.
But come to the NFL and none of these more mature adults, who run organizations and play along side him could ever do so without being distracted.
I know he somehow avoided the beach distraction – it’s too bad he didn’t commit a crime. He would have every NFLer rallying to his side
So what makes him a distraction? Perhaps it is a lack of talent. Yes, former NBA player Jason Collins came out last year and could not find a job this year. He was old! He was never that good! That’s why “the distraction” of a gay teammate would not add up to what he could give.
Michael Sam is projected to be a second or early third day pick in the NFL Draft. He was a first team All-American defensive lineman, so good, the Associated Press named him Defensive Player of the Year in the SEC – widely considered the best conference in all of NCAA football.
That guy might bring more than “distractions” to your team. How about a few sacks. How about a few stops.
But wait, he might look at my junk!
“I think that he would not be accepted as much as we think he would be accepted. I don’t want people to just naturally assume, like, ‘Oh, we’re all homophobic.’ That’s really not the case. Imagine if he’s the guy next to me and, you know, I get dressed, naked, taking a shower, the whole nine, and it just so happens he looks at me.”
That quote comes from irresistible New Orleans Saints linebacker, Jonathan Vilma.
Of course, it’s the thought process like that which not only may keep gay players out of the locker room, but kept well-qualified female sports reporters and journalists out of NFL locker rooms for years.
It was wrong then and it is wrong now.
Still, he might infect our team!
“I don’t think football is ready for [an openly gay player] just yet. In the coming decade or two, it’s going to be acceptable, but at this point in time it’s still a man’s-man game. To call somebody a [gay slur] is still so commonplace. It’d chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room.”
That was an anonymous[coward] NFL player personnel assistant speaking with Pete Thamel and Thayer Evans of the New York Times.
That’s right. Being gay can cause a chemical imbalance changing NFL locker rooms and meeting rooms forever. How will they ever cleanse these players after the gays leave?
What makes tomorrow better than today? We have gay politicians, we have gay ambassadors, we have gay cops, gay firemen, gay soldiers, gay friends, gay family. We even have gay marriage! But the NFL, a league that runs a sport, a place of entertainment, cannot have gays.
In the week leading up to the Super Bowl, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman ranted about the word “thug”, and how that is just a keyword for the n-word.
“The reason it bothers me is because it seems like it’s an accepted way of calling somebody the N-word now. It’s like everybody else said the N-word and then they say ‘thug’ and that’s fine. It kind of takes me aback and it’s kind of disappointing because they know.”
Whether or not Sherman was just trying to capitalize on a moment, draw attention to himself, or some purer reasoning, he did touch on a very real fact: We have acceptable terms for what we are really thinking.
Those spouting out words like “distraction” would not be doing so if they genuinely accepted the LGBT community as the same as them. Distractions are different. Distractions are change from the norm.
Toleration embraces differences as the same and if you lean towards differences are distractions, you are not making an effort to change.
And until the NFL stops putting it off, stops saying it is “not ready for [an openly gay player] yet, and stops letting what is ready for being guys like Vikings special teams coach allegedly saying to Chris Kluwe and others that we should nuke the gays, people will think it is okay to lean on “distraction” as a means of getting away with “discrimination”.
It’s the NFL’s choice. Time for them to start being an example of positive change, instead of negative support.