Norm Kent

Michael Sam: Let Him Play

Filed By Norm Kent | May 18, 2014 9:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Gay Icons and History, Living
Tags: Donald Sterling, Harvey Milk, homophobia, homophobia in sports, Michael Sam, NFL, St. Louis Rams

michael-sam-football.jpgThis is not an editorial about sports, though it is about a football player.

With the 249th selection of the 2014 NFL Draft, the St. Louis Rams chose a defensive end from the University of Missouri, Michael Sam, the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year.

He made history. Now let him play football.

First, they selected the first openly gay college athlete to enter the NFL draft. We know there have been many other gay players long before Michael Sam. Rightly or wrongly, none ever made their sexuality an issue. Sam did, and it cost him big time.

Instead of being a logical fourth- or fifth-round selection, Sam almost did not get picked at all. He was rescued by St. Louis with 7 picks left on the board. It was agonizing to watch team after team, including the Dolphins, go down on the draft board to choose other lesser-rated players at the same position.

All of those teams, from Denver to the Jets to the 'Fins, had made politically correct front office pronouncements that they would not let Sam's open sexuality interfere with their selection process. Lies. They all did.

Each of those football teams, and indeed many more, let a superbly talented athlete with excellent credentials escape their grasp. They just did not want to deal with the hype and the homo. There is no other way to excuse it.

SEC conference players who are standouts at their position do not go at the end of the seventh round -- period. In fact, they are usually first-round picks, though Sam does not have the physical characteristics to so qualify. But he has the character.

Meanwhile, moments after his selection, Sam created a new national debate. He kissed, really kissed, his male partner. We loved it; the world hated it. It's only okay for straight people to do that.

Instantly, the Internet was flooded with homophobic remarks denouncing the 'creepy' behavior. Ironically, one of those came from another Dolphin player, who was promptly suspended and fined by the same management team that had themselves passed on his selection.

The 'Fins blew it. They could have made history. It was bullying that embarrassed and nearly destroyed the Dolphins last season during their first legitimate chance at the playoffs in years.

It would have been so courageous for them, of all teams, to select Sam. When they chose a different, lesser-rated defensive lineman with the 240th pick, they embarrassed themselves and pissed me off.

Meanwhile, in a stadium where half the fans appear as empty orange seats, a major marketing opportunity was lost. Outside of Johnny Manziel, the star A&M quarterback chosen by the Browns, guess whose jersey is nationally outselling every other? You guessed it. The very gay Michael Sam.

zne-jb-harveymilk.jpgThe bottom line is that homophobia permeated the selection process of the NFL draft. Thanks to Don Sterling, we know that racism corrupts pro basketball with a plantation mentality apparently infecting at least certain owners. We may have come a long way in America. We have a longer way to go.

This guy Sterling, interviewed on CNN last week by Anderson Cooper, is now a national joke. The bigger laugh is how the NBA tolerated such a fool for so many years. He is 80 years old. You mean, we just discovered this guy's sentiments?

This week, I will be traveling to the White House, where I will be going to celebrate the release of the new Harvey Milk stamp next Thursday. If you think the Michael Sam kiss drew a hateful response on the Internet, wait till you hear the deafening and demeaning jokes about the release of the stamp. They will make Duck Dynasty seem like Mickey Mouse.

It's going to happen because hate, harm, and hurt still influence and shape our lives. It's going to happen because racism, sexism, homophobia, and more isms still populate and poison America, especially talk radio.

For gay Americans, we can beat it back by standing our ground, fighting on, and not letting wrong win. Go buy a Sam jersey and Milk stamp. Let's show the world we count.

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