Last Saturday, with the 249th pick in the NFL Draft the St. Louis Rams selected Michael Sam out of the University of Missouri. After months of speculation about his draft status, the waiting game was over. Michael was overwhelmed with emotion, and did what almost every other draftee does: he cried, he hugged his family, and he embraced and kissed his significant other. The problem, however, was that Michaels kiss was directed towards a man. What made the moment so historic, and the reason that ESPN and other media outlets were there to cover it, was because Michael Sam has now become the first openly gay man to be drafted into any of the major professional sporting leagues in the US.
With ESPN running the clip of Michael Sam’s drafting and the kiss that followed, social media erupted. All of a sudden, all of the praise and support for Michael Sam, seemed to be muddled by feelings of homophobia and bigotry. My question is why? Why now? I’ll tell you why, it’s because now Michael Sam isn’t just gay. Now Michael Sam is GAY. It’s not just a word anymore, it’s real. And you know what? That’s not his problem, that’s yours.
I wasn’t always comfortable watching two men kiss. I was always accepting of people being gay, and was aware that my comfortability with watching their physical embrace was my problem. Over the years, however, as I began to have more gay friends I just got more used to seeing it. It doesn’t make you a bigot because you aren’t comfortable watching something, it makes you a bigot for not being accepting of it. Being gay is a part of society and a part of life. Condemning Michael, ESPN, or anyone else involved with “the kiss”, is a small minded and bigoted way of thinking.
Michael Sam was always gay, and with or without cameras on him, he was always kissing dudes. That’s what gay people do and there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s part of life and it’s part of society. There was nothing wrong with ESPN showing “the kiss”, and there was even less wrong with Michael Sam giving his boyfriend a kiss. The problem, is how some of us reacted. With hate, with a lack of understanding, and with disgust.
It was not that long ago, seriously, that showing a black man and a white woman kiss on TV would have illicited the same hateful response. It was only a little longer ago that Blacks weren’t even allowed to sit in the same restaurant as whites, and only a bit longer ago that Jews were consider the rodents of society. All of those bigoted beliefs were also defended by moral, social, and religious principles. You know what though? Things change. Our society looks back on that type of thinking as archaic and ignorant. Look how strongly and positively this country rose up against the same type of thinking that was displayed by Donald Sterling and his, “well just don’t bring them to my games.” This situation is no different.
Chris Long, All-Pro DE for the St. Louis Rams and now a teammate of Michael’s, said it best on SVP and Russilo yesterday, reminding everyone that while it may not be public knowledge, there have been plenty of gay players in the NFL before and there will be plenty more in the future. It’s not really that big of a deal. If the players in the locker room with Sam can be tolerant of him and his lifestyle, why can’t people who have never and will never meet him be so?
At the end of the day, it was just a kiss. It was a 100% acceptable act to show on TV. You don’t have to like watching it or even be completely comfortable watching it. However, you do need to learn to be accepting of it.