The day when being gay isn’t news
When we were in The Towerlight office on Sunday for production day and I saw a Tweet about Missouri defensive end Michael Sam coming out as gay, I raised my arms and said, “We did it!” And by “we,” I meant the sporting world. For too long, the sports world has been all about a façade of being a manly man, filled with staunch supporters of traditional values, and it is my hope that Sam’s announcements will encourage athletes in other sports, from the MLB to the WNBA, to be honest about their sexual orientation. It is completely unfair to have to hide that fact at your place of work, which in some people’s cases, is in a professional football locker room.
But after I thought about how happy I was about this, I thought to myself, “Wait, why am I really that happy about this?”
I have said in the past that I am a supporter of same-sex marriage, and have written about it before in the confines of this opinion section.
So in that sense, I am happy that professional athletes are starting to feel more comfortable about their sexual orientation.
However, I am unhappy that I need to be happy about this. Don’t we live in a world today where one’s sexual orientation doesn’t matter?
This is becoming more and more true as people who are in my age demographic are starting to support the idea of same-same marriage, and if some sort of survey was done on campus, I would venture to guess about 80 percent of students would be in support of it, or would at least respond with something like, “It doesn’t really affect me, so why not?”
Which brings me back to questioning my excitement for Sam’s announcement. If someone says he or she is gay, even in an athletic environment, that shouldn’t be the reaction.
There should hardly be any reaction at all except, “OK.” I hope that if Sam is drafted in the 2014 NFL Draft, that his teammates will take a similar approach. But I know that will not be the case, as there have been NFL players even in the last two years who have said they wouldn’t want to have to share a locker room with a gay teammate. Now, this is where NFL general managers come in. They will make the final decision about whether or not to draft Sam. He led the Southeastern Conference in sacks this season, but some scouts are concerned about his size. So why not focus on that instead of his sexual orientation? Because of the media. If any NFL GM decides to draft Sam, they’ll have to be OK with a flood of media outlets and personalities flooding the locker room to talk to Sam and his teammates.
It is my hope that the media will choose to not make it into a story (they will anyway). Take the pressure off of the NFL GM, and the pressure off of Sam. I would image that draft day is stressful enough as it is, and that’s before having to deal with people sticking a microphone in your face asking you about the sex of the person you’re currently sleeping with.
The media needs to realize that America is becoming a place where one’s sexual orientation matters about as much as someone’s skin color or their ethnicity.
We’ve gotten past the point in human history where the hypothetical ESPN scroll would be taken over about news of a black player appearing in a baseball game. So why can’t we get to that point with sexual orientation? Thankfully, within my lifetime, I believe that this will eventually stop being a story. Even if the number of out NFL players only gets up to 10, I can only hope that what Sam is doing now will influence players in the future to be more comfortable with who they are, and that those covering the sporting world will be more apt to handling this situation and not treating it like a show.