Michael Sam is bringing new energy to the NFL draft, his recent announcement and self-acceptance about being gay is the best football bet going. There is no way to hold someone back once they know who they are. By all accounts the young man has not had an easy life. Born in Texas, Sam is the second youngest of eight and already buried three siblings while two of his remaining brothers are presently doing prison time.
God still shined a light on Sam giving him an infectious sense of humor and the ability to overcome odds. He has been blessed along the way with caring people who have allowed him peace of mind so that he could develop as an athlete and find a sense of purpose. It really isn’t the former All-Americans’ job to change the opinion of people who think that a gay man, who is qualified, should not earn a living on the football field.
At the University of Missouri he proved his football worth and was a great student. His courage to come out publicly may help others that are gay to do the same without the reactions Sams’ announcement has garnered. Right now, others remain hidden behind the macho drive of the game in fear of losing contracts and heterosexual approval.
Those opposed to gay players in the league are making their feelings known. There is also support from people who stand behind a player who brings skills to the game; many believe that a person should be allowed to earn a living doing what they do best.
Sam has received support for his courage and encouragement from teammates, fans, friends, and even President Obama and First Lady Michelle. His announcement has even prompted a state legislator in Missouri to enact a bill to end discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Like many who come out, support from home and family is not quite there yet for Sam. His mother Jo Ann Sam, is a devout Jehovah Witness. This religion frowns on organized sports. Sam’s mother believes sports takes away from time that would be better spent working on the mission of service. She did not respond to requests from media for a statement on her son’s announcement.
Sam’s father, Michael Sam Sr., responded after receiving a text message from his son which read simply, “Dad, I’m gay.” It took his dad a moment to compose himself and once he did he replied by saying he could not agree with the life his son has chosen, but that he loves him. When Sam’s dad received the text from his son, he was enjoying a birthday meal at Denny’s. He feels that as a black man, his son has enough hurdles to cross. He still hopes his namesake makes it to the NFL.
The story of Michael Sam’s road to self-acceptance and coming out to friends that he tells is similar to the story other people within the LGBT community, but unlike Sam their best bet doesn’t rest on football. Sam started coming out two years ago to a few people he trusted. Sunday’s announcement brings him full circle; his family knows and those that thought they knew, now know with certainty.
Sam is the first in his family to attend college. His drive and determination to make it past obstacles that could have taken him down a wrong path have instead grounded him in football.
He says he just wants to play ball. Michael Sam’s self-acceptance is the best football bet going. There is hope that a man’s game will progress enough to let a man who is gay win some games for whatever team is smart enough to grab him up. The prospect of playing in the NFL should be a sure shot for a player with his talent.
Editorial By C. Imani Williams