Whenever cultural standards and norms change and evolve, there are some who feel uncomfortable about it – sometimes there’s even backlash. Every time a societal barrier has been broken there have been some who have had problems with it. We have certainly seen examples of that throughout history around issues relating to gender and race, and in recent years, sexual orientation.
Too often, those who may not be uncomfortable with the change fail to recognize the reality of the significance, or they choose not to recognize the significance. We’ve heard over and over again from some – “I don’t have a problem with it, but why does it have to be all about that?” A more specific example, “I don’t care if he’s black, but it should be about the baseball, not his race.”
Such is the recent case with football player Michael Sam, who became the first openly gay player drafted in the NFL.
Sam was cut by the team that drafted him, the St. Louis Rams, and despite his solid pre-season performances on the playing field, he hasn’t even been picked up for any team’s practice squad. Some are blaming Sam’s situation on the media “distraction” that his presence on the team creates. (Read more here.)
That media attention is brought by the reality of the historical cultural significance of his presence on a team. The reality of that significance also brings backlash, and much of that is likely behind the scenes.
It’s becoming clear to me that there’s nobody in the management of the NFL teams who has the moral fortitude to withstand the societal pressure, and do the right thing by giving Michael Sam a chance. Based on my experience in politics, I suspect that they are all probably subject to too much behind the scenes pressure to stand up to.
No, I am not trying to make this about me, but I can’t help but see similarities between my experience in politics and what Sam is going through with the NFL. I know that I have certainly been a part of similar situations in conservative politics.
I’ve heard many many times publicly, and many more privately, something similar to – “It’s not that we are opposed to gays it’s… the distraction… or, the way you’re going about it… or, why is it about that?…or, can’t you just do the work?…etc….” (I could list a lot of specific personal examples like CPAC, Mitt Romney, RNC, etc…etc…) They’ll also do just about anything and find any other excuse not to take the step to help crush barriers.
Now after what I’ve been through and seen others go through, I’ve come to see those who choose to ignore the cultural significance of breaking down barriers in order to avoid the controversy or attention as no better than the bigots who actively oppose the change. You see, bigotry stains you if you don’t stand up to it.
The true heroes stand up to the bigots, they endure the backlash and distraction and press through it – because it’s right.
Where are the NFL’s heroes?
***UPDATE*** I wanted to share this story by Buzzfeed’s Dan Oshinsky. You should check it out.
Here is another very good article. It’s a must read by The Bleacher Reports NFL National Lead Writer, Mike Freeman.
***UPDATE 2*** It looks like Michael Sam may become a Dallas Cowboy.