Editorial-Max Speaks Out: Missouri Tiger Comes Out as Gay

Editorial-Max+Speaks+Out%3A+Missouri+Tiger+Comes+Out+as+Gay

Max Sosland

In an interview with ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” on Feb. 10, Michael Sam, an All-American defensive end from the University of Missouri (Mizzou) and the Associated Press’ Defensive Player of the Year, said that he is gay.

 

Sam is projected to be a mid-third round pick in April’s upcoming NFL draft. Assuming this happens, Sam will become the first openly gay athlete in the history of the NFL.

 

“I am an openly, proud gay man,” said Sam.

 

Even before Sam’s announcement, many steps have been taken to advance gay rights and acceptance. In 1987, former Massachusetts U.S. Representative Barney Frank came out as the first openly gay congressman. Seventeen states and Washington D.C. have legalized gay marriage. The notorious “don’t ask, don’t tell” military policy was repealed by President Barack Obama in 2011.

 

Recently, six Democratic state attorney generals received criticism from Republicans for refusing to defend bans on same-sax marriage who say it is their duty to stand behind their state laws, even if they do not agree with them. On Feb. 25, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. declared in an interview that state attorneys general are not obligated to defend laws that they believe are discriminatory.

 

“Engaging in that process and making that determination is something that’s appropriate for an attorney general to do,” Holder said, as reported by The New York Times’ Matt Apuzzo.

 

This momentum is poised to sweep into professional sports.

 

Michael Sam joins  Jason Collins, a 12-year NBA veteran, who came out as being the first openly gay athlete in the NBA on May 6, 2013, in a Sports Illustrated article. Collins was recently reported to have signed a 10-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets after being a free agent for over 10 months since his announcement. Midfielder Robbie Rogers, who became the first openly gay male athlete to play in a U.S. professional team sports game in May of 2013, also joins Sam.

 

Collins acknowledged Sam’s announcement on Twitter:

“For the past 2 days I have met with @MikeSamFootball here in LA. He is a great young man who has shown tremendous courage and leadership.”

 

Yet despite the inevitability of this progression, resistance has accompanied announcements from athletes who are not so welcoming to the prospect of a gay teammate.

 

San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver said to Artie Lange on his radio show in 2013, via Yahoo! Sports, “We don’t have any gays on the team. They gotta get up outta here if they do. Can’t be with that sweet stuff.”

 

Several anonymous NFL officials said that Sam’s announcement before the draft will hurt his draft status and told Sports Illustrated that this is because a gay player would not be welcome in an NFL locker room.  “I don’t think football is ready for [an openly gay player] just yet,” said an NFL player personnel assistant. “In the coming decade or two, it’s going to be acceptable, but at this point in time it’s still a man’s-man game. To call somebody a [gay slur] is still so commonplace. It’d chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room.”

 

Statements like these make it even clearer that it is important to remember the difference between being out and being accepted, and how many years it takes historically to bridge the two. This is just the start.

 

Collins in his SI article said he is ready to receive this sort of clamor.

 

“As far as the reaction of fans, I don’t mind if they heckle me,” said Collins in his SI article. “I’ve been booed before. There have been times when I’ve wanted to boo myself. But a lot of ill feelings can be cured by winning.”

 

With Sam, Collins and Rogers, they can provide inspiration to those who are still “in the closet” to disregard the naysayers and take the leap.

 

“Any famous person who ‘comes out,’ can be a voice and an advocate for other people in the LGBT (Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender) community,” said Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy alumnus Jonathan Edelman, who came out his senior year in high school. “Kids who are bullied, afraid to join sports teams, or afraid to come out on a sports team can look at Michael Sam and see that it is okay to be who they want to be.”

 

Jake Rose, another HBHA alumnus, came out when he was a junior in high school at HBHA. He was also very active in HBHA athletics and came out right before an out-of-town basketball tournament.

 

“The support I received from my teammates was overwhelming,” said Rose. “Relationship-wise, the only thing that changed was I became more respected as a leader. My teammates valued my courage and honesty.”

 

HBHA is a warm, welcoming environment where people do not discriminate on the basis of race, sexual orientation, or religious denomination.

 

“As a student who does not identify as heterosexual, I’ve found HBHA to be a supportive environment,” said HBHA senior Alex Sher. “Many students here are vocal for LGBTQ rights, which always makes me feel comfortable. Overall, my sexuality has not affected my interactions with others at school, which is exactly how it should be.”

 

Michael Sam has not only become a role model for young, hopeful athletes, but has also become an inspiration to those who are still searching for their identities. He realizes that everything is about to change for him, and he is happy and proud to finally let everyone know his secret.

“I’m not afraid to tell the world who I am,” he said. “I’m Michael Sam: I’m a college graduate. I’m African American, and I’m gay.”

 

To see how Michael Sam’s fellow classmates at Mizzou showed their support, read this article by ESPN’s Rick Reilly:

http://espn.go.com/college-football/story/_/id/10466480/mizzou-students-display-true-spirit-supporting-michael-sam