The questions teams should be asking about Michael Sam coming out


The biggest questions swirling around the NFL right now all have to do with Michael Sam coming out as gay to the NFL world. For this week’s mailbag I answer a question about that.


If you were the coach of the Green Bay Packers, would you see Michael Sam being on your team as a big distraction? I’ve noticed the players seem to be overall supportive, yet all of the “anonymous” NFL executives are saying they think it would be a big distraction and will therefore affect his draft stock. What’s your take?

–Jay in Chicago

The question that people need to be asking about Michael Sam, besides the obvious and most important “Can he play?”, isn’t will his story make him a distraction for the locker room. Being the first openly gay player in the NFL (assuming he’s drafted) will make the media go crazy. There simply won’t be a day that it doesn’t come up in post game interviews, radio shows, or on t.v. The question needs to instead be “Will it be more of a distraction than any other big story in the NFL, and will it be a negative distraction?” 

Last year after Aaron Rodgers went down with his broken collarbone, was it not a media circus? Do you think, with everyone hoping and praying for Rodgers’ return to health, it was a positive distraction for Matt Flynn, Scott Tolzien, or the team as a whole? Do I even need to bring up last year’s Aaron Hernandez is a murderer fiasco?

So, to answer your first question: Yes, it would be a distraction having the very first openly gay player in NFL history was in my locker room. But, in my opinion it wouldn’t be a negative one. If anything it will light a fire under Michael Sam and make him play the best he’s ever played, shutting up any doubters anyways.

As to why the players are supportive while the GMs and front office execs have seemed uncomfortable with Sam’s coming out, it speaks to a generation gap. I’m 26 years old and have grown up in the height of the gay rights movement. Young players in the NFL have grown up around it as well. More and more people are finally feeling comfortable and safe to tell the world that they are gay. When the GMs and front office executives were our age, homosexuality simply wasn’t widely accepted. Those who were gay were scared to come out because of what it might do to their reputation and ability to succeed in this world. Ignorance to homosexuality had caused much of corporate America to fear homosexuality, and in the NFL so dominated by the typical male stereotype, coming out there must have been even harder.

Soon enough that generation gap will close, and Michael Sam will always be remembered as the catalyst for that.


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