Michael Sam’s announcement a brave one
By Eric Wilkins, Sports Editor
February is a big month for the NFL. It starts off with the Super Bowl, and then slots in the NFL Combine near the end. This February, however, stood out for a different reason. NFL Draft hopeful Michael Sam, a Missouri defensive end who was an All-American and the Southeastern Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year this past season, came out as being homosexual. My initial thought had no opposition in my mind.
Michael Sam is an idiot.
It was a publicity grab. A media stunt. A desperate clamouring for the spotlight. Just what did Sam hope to achieve from his announcement? Every NFL team with a half-decent scout in his area already knew about it. All of Sam’s teammates were aware of it, and a few reporters likely were, as well. In essence, the only ones who didn’t know were those who didn’t matter: the general public. By coming out and making himself a very public figure, Sam was hurting his draft stock. NFL teams don’t like distractions. Players who tend to gather unwanted attention to themselves, and by extension, the team, have to be very good to have their negatives overlooked. Exhibit-A for distractions is Tim Tebow. For all the flack he’s picked up in his career, Tebow is a proven winner. Technically sound? Of course not. But can you really argue with the results? Tebow had no business taking out the Steelers in the playoffs a few years ago, but he did. And now, because of the intense focus the media and the public place on him, he’s out of a job. Not even on a practice roster.
Sam was expected to be a mid-round pick—perhaps as high as a third-rounder. After his announcement though, I had doubts about how true that prediction would remain. Will he even be drafted? Tebow has experience and isn’t even in the league; Sam hasn’t played a single down, and already has an incredible following of his own. On top of the sideshow Sam will bring, teams will also have to consider the football side of it all. Sam is a defensive end but he’s undersized. At 6’2” and 255 pounds, Sam lacks ideal size for the position—falling into the classic “tweener” category—and there have been concerns about his ability to adapt to an outside linebacker position regardless of it being in a 4-3 or 3-4 defence. To sum it up, teams were already going to have to gamble on Sam about whether he would even be able to play, and now, with the megaphone that the media will have taped to his mouth, a borderline prospect loses even more ground. All Sam had to do was keep his mouth shut for even just a few more months until he stuck on a roster and put pen to contract. Then he’d have it all: the dream, the money, and his life.
But there’s more to life than just football, and this is what many, myself included, failed to account for. Don’t think that Sam wasn’t aware of the consequences of his coming out. If other people knew of his situation, don’t doubt for a second that both Sam and his agent were aware of others knowing. Agents are all about squeezing every last dime out of their clients, and there’s little reason to think Sam’s is any different. The All-American would have been well-schooled on the fact that he stood to potentially lose out on millions of dollars. But he still did it anyway.
In doing so with full knowledge of the possible repercussions, Sam made it known what was most important to him: living his life. It wasn’t about the money. It wasn’t about the attention. It was about being himself and not having to hide from that. Now, regardless of what happens to him, Sam has become a symbol of hope for others, and his actions are something all of us, not just homosexuals, can learn from. Don’t care what others think. Don’t place financial considerations ahead of what really matters. Do what you need to do to be comfortable and happy with yourself first. The NFL has long been seen as the macho-est of the professional sports leagues, and if someone has the courage to be different and walk right into that lion’s den with their head held high, anything is possible.