Michael Sam, an All-American defensive lineman from Missouri and the Associated Press' SEC Defensive Player of the Year, said that he is gay in an interview with ESPN's "Outside the Lines" on Sunday.The fact that Sam has been out to his team all season—a successful season for Missouri—should help quiet some of the "what about the locker room" chatter that always seems to come up in discussions of gay athletes. And indeed, notwithstanding the way Sam's team embraced him and went on to succeed, some of the NFL's bigots are out giving blind quotes about how he's damaged goods now:
Sam stated publicly what his teammates and coaches at Mizzou have known since August: "I am an openly, proud gay man." [...]
Sam led the SEC with 11.5 sacks, and 19 tackles for a loss. Most NFL draft projections see him as a likely mid-round pick, with some saying Sam could go as high as the third round, with a possible position switch to outside linebacker. He is rated as the 12th-best outside pass rusher in the draft by ESPN Scouts Inc.
"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."The polished way of defending bigotry is talking about the distraction of the media focus on Sam and the team that drafts him—the perfect self-perpetuating excuse, since no matter how far the rest of the world progresses, there will always be a media focus on the first out NFL player.
Not hiding behind blind quotes, the NFL released a statement saying that "We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014," and many NFL players past and present offered support, with Deion Sanders making a crucial point: