With all of the hate spewing out of Russia both before and during the 2014 Winter Olympics, the timing is almost fitting.
University of Missouri lineman Michael Sam announced to the world that he’s gay in print interviews with ESPN, The New York Times and Outsports on Sunday (Feb. 9) and thankfully, the dialogue has been mostly positive.
Keep in mind that this isn’t just some scrub trying to make a name for himself. Sam led his conference in sacks and earned All-American honours as a senior last year. Chances are good that he’ll get drafted by an NFL squad in May and become the first openly gay player in NFL history.
It’s a little silly that someone’s sexual preference is still that big of a story in 2014, but good on Sam for being brave enough to put it all out on the table.
Believe it or not, homosexuals can be good athletes — just look at the aforementioned Olympics.
Likely hundreds of athletes in Sochi right now are representing dozens and dozens of countries but there are only six openly gay athletes competing, including Canadian speed skater Anastasia Bucsis.
Gay rights have become such an issue during the entire Sochi experience, but in my mind it isn’t gay rights — it’s basic human rights. Gay people are no different than straight people, bisexual people or transgendered people. The key word there is we’re all people.
Unfortunately, sometimes it’s hard to receive that type of treatment in normal, everyday society, which is why sport can be used so perfectly as the great equalizer. Team sports need all their teammates to come together as one, no matter how different they are. It doesn’t matter if one guy on the team likes girls or another prefers men.
In an individual sport, you aren’t judged on sexual preferences — it’s all about what you do on the field of play. Like former New York Jets head coach Herm Edwards so eloquently put — “You play to win the game.”
Stories like the Sam’s coming-out can tend to be overblown but slowly and surely, North America is chipping away at the “shocking” nature of someone being attracted to another person of the same gender.
I look forward to the day when something like a player or a celebrity declaring that they’re gay isn’t looked at as huge news, because it’s not. Gay people have been around forever and they’re not going away anytime soon.
Football may be looked upon as a manly, brute sport played by men with muscles and beards, but come this spring, it might be populated with at least one openly gay person.
And he won’t be the last.