Opinion: Openly gay pro athletes

In the past few months, one college football player openly admitted to being gay months before the NFL Draft and a 35 year-old gay basketball player was signed to a 10-day contract with the New Jersey Nets. Both have received coverage on social media and on television since coming out publicly.

Jason Collins made his announcement almost a year ago and now has seen back-to-back contracts from the Nets. The media on Collins has died down, especially since he hasn’t really played since announcing he was gay.  As soon as he signed a contract with the Nets, the media needed to explore the story even further.

A year later, 22 year-old Michael Sam comes out on Outside The Lines, and everyone is talking again about a new gay athlete.

Michael Sam is a former defensive lineman from the University of Missouri. The media will not stop talking about Sam’s sexual orientation, and it continues to wait for a reaction from the NFL regarding openly-gay athletes.

Of course I understand that Sam being the first openly gay NFL prospect is complex, but reporters and certain news outlets act as if this news will have a huge impact on his draft status. They question whether certain general managers of teams will view Sam differently.

There has been nonstop coverage since Sam made the announcement, and it seems as though the NFL and other sport media outlets are riding this way too long.  They’ve made it into a bigger deal than it should be.

There was an article written on MMQB.SI.com that highlights many quotes from general managers around the league and their thoughts about the whole situation.

“Should I really care?” a general manager said. “Is it going to be that big a deal? Aren’t we beyond this?”

Teams should be judging him on his scores at the combine and the resume he built on the football field, while at Missouri. Some of the things he accomplished this past season include being named the SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year and an unanimous first team All-American.

It’s been known that he isn’t the biggest player for his position, but he’s obviously doing something right.  Before publicly coming out, Sam was projected as a third to fourth round pick in the 2014 draft, and now some speculate that he might go down a round because of his announcement.

“It’s not a shocking thing to me, and it won’t be to our organization,” another general manager said. “You’ll have old-school guys on your team saying, ‘Are you kidding, putting this guy on our team?’ And you’ll have other guys say, ‘Who cares? I knew two gay guys who came out in college.’”

Will Sam coming out affect his draft stock? It probably will, but by no means should that really play a role in the draft. The media could be blamed for this by making such a big deal out of it. I understand that there are certain general managers out there who might feel uncomfortable signing Michael Sam to their roster but if he’s going to help a team win games should it really matter?

He was named a one of the top defensive players in the SEC, which is arguably the conference best known for their defense. He had 10.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss last season. He led the SEC in sacks per game and tackles for loss per game. If those stats don’t speak up to many general managers around the league, then I don’t know what does.

In the end, I hope Sam has a great NFL career and that he proves to all of his critics that they were wrong.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

About Caio Orofino 22 Articles
Caio Orofino is a Junior from Ann Arbor, MI currently studying Mass Media Communications and Economics & Management. He is very passionate about soccer and the University of Michigan's football and basketball teams. Follow me on Twitter!

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