This past week brought an avalanche of reaction to NFL prospect Michael Sam’s huge announcement that he is gay. While reaction has been mostly positive from NFL players anonymous feedback from NFL General Managers has been less encouraging. 

The week of stereotype-busting has also included mostly supportive journalists, and a friend jokingly remarked of the above viral-spinning video of Dallas sportscaster Dale Hansen, “hearing this older white Texan sportscaster quote Audre Lorde just disrupted my stereotype of old white Texans!” 

Below are nine other noteworthy takes:

“The Eagle Has Landed”: Exclusive Behind-The-Scenes Story of How Michael Sam Came Out, OutSports, Cyd Zeigler

“Bragman also wanted to include Outsports in the plan. He knew we would be talking “20 times a day” as this unfolded, and he wanted to give Outsports the “behind the scenes” story, the insight into how the story came about. No one else in the media would have been in the middle of strategy conversations, and it was a story Bragman felt needed to be told. ‘Outsports has been light years ahead of any other publication on this topic,’ he said. ‘And I think Outsports has earned it.’

“Any GM who feels like they need to move him down their draft board… should resign
Cyd Zeigler Interview by Chris Lingebach

“Any GM who feels like they need to move him down their draft board, or take him off the draft board because of this should resign from their position,” Zeigler said. “And not because of any social justice issue, but because if you’re a general manager and you can’t keep the ship right while having some extra cameras and questions about a gay player, you’re incompetent. And if you’re a leader in the locker room, and you’re not able to keep the locker room together with there just being a gay player on the team, you should leave the NFL, or turn away your captain status.”

The Struggles of Michael Sam, Andrew Sullivan, The Dish

“One of the more frustrating things about being gay can be the assumption that your sexual orientation must have been the toughest thing about your childhood or adolescence. And so the gay identity – attached with every good intention – can erase the complicated identities of actual gay people, whose lives are shaped, like those of straight people, by all the slings and arrows of general fortune. For some of us, being gay was a minor variation in the symphony of our childhood and adolescence, compared with all the other things going on. And for some of us, being gay wasn’t a trap, it was also a form of liberation. It wasn’t the problem we had to solve; it was the solace that made those problems surmountable.”

On Michael Sam Coming Out, Cheryl Cooky, The Feminist Wire

The impact of Michael Sam coming out publicly cannot be underestimated or overlooked in a society wherein LGBT communities continue (despite the passage of laws or increased representation in popular culture) to experience marginalization, discrimination, and oppression. Moreover, the cultural meanings and implications of being “out” in a men’s professional league like the NFL cannot be easily dismissed, because, as aforementioned, football has been so intricately linked to hegemonic masculinity and heterosexuality. A gay man playing sport has the potential to fracture that cultural linkage between masculinity, heterosexuality and athleticism by his mere presence on the field, from which athletes of all genders and sexual orientations would benefit.

At the same time, I am less optimistic about the impact of Michael Sam coming out on the subcultures of sport. Sports in the institutional center have faced similar crises wherein sport’s hegemonic masculine dominance was tenuous (i.e. the racial integration of sports, the inclusion of women in sports with the passage of Title IX, and the establishment of professional leagues for women). However, while sports struggle with the inclusion of marginalized groups, these struggles too often strengthen the institutional power of sports rather than fundamentally restructuring of the values, norms, and beliefs embedded in these dominant institutions. 


Photo via OutSports

Michael Sam, Living By His Code, Ron Glover, The Starting Five

Michael Sam is Omar Little from “The Wire”. Omar was a drug dealer/stickup artist who had a special affection for men. Omar was in a game which was at the top of the narcissistic chain. Omar played the game by his rules and won viewers over in the process. Scenes of Omar with his male lover went against the unwritten code of the streets. As the series continued, Omar became a favorite as he stood alone against Avon Barksdale and later Marlo Stanfield. When Omar was killed off, the top rooting interest on the show went with it.

Michael Sam is in a game not created with a person who leads his lifestyle in mind. Regardless, he will play and if he is successful, who he goes home to at night will hopefully be a non-issue. Instead, we’ll be talking about a 12 tackle performance that included a bone-jarring forced fumble. In one of the series’ great quotes, Omar stated, “A man got to have a code.” Michael Sam is playing by his.

Character Issues, Jonathan Weiler, TheESPNWatch

Sports executives and media talk endlessly about “character.” It’s a concept that, under the best of circumstances, is elusive and hard to get your arms around. Too often, as I’ve complained before, from the perspective of sports media, character reduces to a willingness to cooperate with the media, to give them access and quotes, never mind how they conduct their lives otherwise.

Michael Sam Owns His Truth, Will NFL Owners Join HimDave Zirin, The Nation

“The true question comes in the next couple of months. For years, NFL owners have operated on a system of benign neglect when it comes to their league’s homophobia, no matter the effect on their own loved ones. The greater good has always been the image of “The Shield” and the revenue streams for which it stands. Now they are being pushed by one brave college All-American to stand for something more profound than themselves: the idea that the league is truly for everyone and merit matters more than prejudice. We will find out on draft day.”

Michael Sam, Jackie Robinson, and Why the Bigots Always Lose, The Atlantic, Matt O’Brien

“There’s a naïve, and willfully ignorant, theory that the market will end public prejudice. That the government doesn’t need to (and shouldn’t) force businesses to stop discriminating because discriminating is bad for business, so they’ll stop on their own. It’s a free market fairy tale that some libertarians still like to tell themselves about why the Civil Rights Act supposedly went too far. The only problem is we know it’s BS. If the market were going to end Jim Crow, the market would have ended Jim Crow. It didn’t.”

Why is ESPN Being So Weird About Michael Sam?, Jordan Sargent, Rolling Stone

“Consider that the network will be discussing the NFL’s first openly gay player without an openly gay anchor of its own. It does, though, employ a prominent basketball writer who, on air, called being gay “an open rebellion to God.” ESPN will now spend months debating whether the NFL is ready to accept an out gay player. It will be both funny and sad if it never occurs to ESPN to turn that lens on itself.”

 

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