Why does it Matter if Michael Sam, college football star and top NFL prospect, says he’s gay?

Michael_Sam_final_Mizzou_home_game(CNN)Michael Sam, an All-American defensive lineman from the University of Missouri, publicly revealed that he’s gay Sunday, creating the possibility he’ll be the first openly gay player drafted by the National Football League.

“I came to tell the world I’m an openly proud gay man,” he said in an interview with ESPN.

He said he told his Missouri teammates in August and suffered no repercussions. He said he was surprised to discover many people in the media already knew he was gay.

“I understand how big this is,” Sam said in the ESPN interview. “It’s a big deal. No one has done this before. And it’s kind of a nervous process, but I know what I want to be … I want to be a football player in the NFL.”

Why does it matter?

This interesting perspective was found on Facebook:

I have a three-step exercise that makes the point clear. If you say you’re cool with gay people but you don’t see why they need to make it public, try this:

1. Hide your wife/girlfriend/husband/boyfriend’s picture at work and never acknowledge they exist. If friends ask whether you’re married or dating, tell them it’s none of their business. Do this repeatedly for months and always tell them it’s your private life and you don’t talk about it. Believe me, they’ll fill in the gaps in their own way.
2. When you’re out with your wife/girlfriend/husband/boyfriend, remind him or her that they can’t act affectionate in any way. No whispering, hand-holding, fond looks or knowing glances. If someone walks up and greets you, make sure you refer to your wife/husband as “a friend” and make sure she/he knows to nod in agreement. And don’t forget to ask for two beds or separate rooms while you travel.
3. Those things straight people love to make public – their engagements, weddings, kids’ births, etc. That’s flaunting your lifestyle, and you’ll need to keep that to yourself and off the Internet and out of the paper. You’ll need separate memberships at Costco, and if someone sees you there together, make sure you have a good cover story about why you’re shopping with your “friend” on a Saturday afternoon.

“The truth is, our personal lives aren’t private,” the writer contends. “They never have been. And to expect an NFL player to live any kind of regular, ordinary life as a gay person, everyone around him – and thus everyone in the world – is going to know that aspect of his life. It’s going to be made public one way or another: in the National Enquirer riddled with bad reporting or in The New York Times where he can tell his own story. The fact that he can tell it in The Times shows how far the world has come.”

As a child, Sam watched his older brother die from a gunshot wound. Another older brother has been missing since 1998, and his other two brothers are both in prison. Sam also had an older sister, who died in infancy.

Michael notified his Missouri teammates in August 2013 that he is gay, which resulted in their supporting him after his announcement. On February 9, 2014, Sam announced that he is gay in an interview with Chris Connelly on ESPN‘s Outside the Lines, becoming one of the first openly gay college football players. If he is drafted in the 2014 NFL Draft or signed by an NFL team as an undrafted free agent, he will become the first active openly gay player in NFL history. Though he was projected as a third- or fourth-round pick in the NFL Draft, anonymous NFL executives told Sports Illustrated that they expect Sam to fall in the draft as a result of his announcement.

RELATED READING: The NFL’s Big Test Is the NFL ready for an openly gay player?

EXCERPTS:

We’ve been asking that question for a while, but after draft prospect Michael Sam’s brave coming out on Sunday night, there’s a face at the center of the discussion. Opinions are mixed as to the answer, but one thing’s clear: We’re going to find out very soon.

“Unfortunately, this is a lot more okay in society than it is in lots of locker rooms. Some locker rooms are still stuck in the ’50s.” —NFL scout

“A team with strong leadership at coach and in the locker room, like New England, I would imagine, would be okay. … But without that strong leadership, I could see it being divisive, and I could see a team saying, ‘We don’t need this.’ ” —NFL scout

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