Major league sports and homosexuals: A changing cultural perception

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Justin Richards

Contributing Writer 

 

Defensive End Michael Sam will become the first openly gay NFL draft pick.

In doing so, Sam has changed the identity of team sports for years to come.

The former Missouri Tiger, expected to be a mid-round draft pick, did interviews with the New York Times and ESPN, wanting to, in his own words, become a “proud, openly gay man.”

“I wanted my own truth, I wanted to tell my story, and not let anyone else tell it for me,” Sam said.

The Southeastern Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year’s admission to being a homosexual has caused a media firestorm, questioning whether or not a gay athlete can be accepted by his teammates.

Some NFL executives and coaches believe that Sam’s announcement has “significantly” hurt his draft stock.

“Sports Illustrated reporter Pete Thamel interviewed an anonymous NFL general manager, who gave his reasoning as to why a gay NFL player would not be accepted.

The GM explained that the culture in the locker room would be something difficult for someone of that nature to go though.

New York Giants cornerback, Terrell Thomas, spoke to Dan Grazino for espn.com about how he believes it would be hard for a homosexual player to be accepted in the locker room.

“The attention on him is going to bring [unwanted] attention to the team, questions that the players coaches, and whole organization are going to have to answer– and that’s a lot for one player to carry by himself,” Thomas said.

Thomas went on to speak about the atmosphere of the locker room being the biggest issue with all of the various “jokes” that are often thrown around.

Although Thomas is steadfast in his position of having a gay teammate, not all athletes feel the same way about Sam’s orientation.

Former Florida Southern Cross Country runner Shawn O’Keefe, explained that sexual orientation really does not matter once you are in competition, where the mindset is all about winning.

“The last thing on my mind while I am going through practice or during a race is my teammates’ sexual preference. I have never been concerned about my teammate looking at me a ‘different’ way,” O’Keefe said.

One Florida Southern College athlete, who did not want to be named, went on record to say that to came down to whether or not the person could make plays or not.

“If they can make plays to help our team win, then it really does not matter what they do off the court, so long it is nothing that can get them in trouble,” They said.

Sam told his teammates his sexual orientation back in August.

His team finished the year 12-2 and won a bowl game.

May 1 is the start of the NFL draft.  It will also be the potential start of Sam’s career, where he will be the most polarizing player to be picked.

He has already started the clock on a debate for the next few months to come.

 

Photo courtesy of  Gary Pinkel via Flikr