Breaking down barriers in sports
There he was in all his glory. Only seconds after being drafted with the 249th overall pick by the Saint Louis Rams, Michael Sam could not help but let the emotions pour as he and his boyfriend Vito Cammisano celebrated with a kiss, after being the first openly gay player selected in the National Football League Draft. Immediately following Sam’s public display of affection, social media sites such as Twitter exploded with bigoted diatribes in response to his intimate moment with his boyfriend.
As unbelievable as it may be, one of the culprits was current Dolphins backup safety Don Jones, who tweeted “omg” and “horrible” immediately following the kiss. You would have thought after being so close to the NFL’s biggest black-eye last season, he would have known when to keep his mouth shut, and just focus on actually getting on the field, instead of warming the bench in South Beach.
Jones has since been fined and suspended by the Dolphins.
Another documented outburst came from one of the landmark foot-in-mouth offenders, Ole Miss point guard Marshall Henderson. Henderson has made a living off of being a bottom-feeding troll during his collegiate career, frequently gesturing and yelling obscenities at crowds during road games.
Henderson tweeted, “Boycotting sportscenter til this michael sam nasty ass shit is off…. My brothers are 7 and 11 and saw that!!! #Sickening.”
Marshall followed up his first tweet with, “Im sorry, but I DO NOT AGREE WHATSOEVER that should be shown to where innocent eyes can see!!!”
Fortunately the statements that really matter and have a real impact, managed to outshine the close-minded tweets of the few during such a landmark moment. One such rallying cry came from President Barack Obama.
President Obama said he, “Congratulates Michael Sam, the Rams, and the NFL for taking an important step forward today in our Nation’s journey.” Adding that, “From the playing field to the corporate boardroom, LGBT Americans prove everyday that you should be judged by what you do, and not who you are.”
Sam courageously came out publicly on Feb. 9, in an interview with Chris Connelly on ESPN’s daily news program "Outside The Lines." Before Sam's announcement, no player had ever come out publicly in NFL history. Sam previously came out to his teammates before his senior season, and also came out to his father a week before he did so publicly.
Following Sam’s announcement, the Galveston Daily News quoted Sam’s father, Michael Sam Sr. as saying he was, “old-school, a man-and-a-woman type of guy,” and said, “I don’t want my grandkids raised in that type of environment.” Sam Sr. has since proclaimed that he was, “terribly misquoted.” But the Times maintains that he was quoted, “accurately and fairly.”
Coming out following his senior season was courageous for many factors, but maybe the most commendable was the fact that it was the decision, that likely lead to Sam falling to later draft rounds, potentially losing him anywhere from tens of thousands to millions of dollars.
Although some scouts would have you believe that a poor NFL Scouting Combine led to Sam slipping to the later rounds, it is widely regarded that Sam’s announcement had the most direct influence in his seventh round selection. Before making his announcement, Sam was expected to be taken anywhere between the third and fourth rounds.
When considering the awards and accolades Sam garnered during his time with the Missouri Tigers, it’s even harder to explain such a steep slide.
His awards include, Consensus All-American, Co-Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year, first–team All-SEC, and first-team All-American by the Associated Press, Sporting News, American Football Coaches Association, and Football Writers Association of America. Sam was also a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award, Hendricks Award, and Lombardi Award.
Sam’s season highlights include a forced fumble returned for a touchdown during the 2014 Cotton Bowl, which secured the victory over Oklahoma State. He also finished the season with 11.5 sacks, and 19 tackles for loss.
Since being drafted, Sam has the best selling rookie jersey on the NFL’s website. Sam’s jersey was more popular than any other draftee, except for quarterback and former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.
Living in an age of revolutionaries like Sam, makes me proud to be an American. Especially during a time that still condemns and even executes lesbian, gay, and bi-sexual people in different parts of the globe.
If we can support Michael Sam as a country and build him up for the world to see, maybe his heroic decision will one day come to change government policies and minds alike. Maybe Sam, with the USA behind him, will come to change the world.