Michael Sam may differ greatly from Tim Tebow in terms of his beliefs, but he’s certainly taken after the former Broncos and Jets quarterback in one way – and not entirely by choice.
Sam made the bold decision to announce his sexual orientation a few weeks ago, becoming the first openly gay player to enter the NFL draft, but the way many media outlets have covered football, one could reasonably get the impression that Sam and his sexuality are the only things that matter this offseason.
Tebow, who was known in his own way for constantly crediting Jesus Christ for his success, may have appeared in ESPN highlights more than he actually did on the field, and if the media culture that made his career far more of a circus than it needed to be continues on its path of relentlessness, there’s, unfortunately, no telling when Sam won’t consume the headlines of the NFL.
That’s not to say Sam doesn’t deserve recognition for his courage, but when the applauding reaction is milked so much that the young man is known more by reporters for being gay than being a football player, his announcement will inevitably result in more attention than the “acceptance” that fueled the story in the first place.
Don’t take my word for it, either. Sam himself recently fielded questions at the NFL Scouting Combine – the whole purpose of which is for teams to evaluate players’ on-field skills – and couldn’t leave his podium without having to address the topic of his being gay.
“I wish you’d see me as Michael Sam the football player instead of Michael Sam, the gay football player,” he said.
If that quote, which has obviously spread like wildfire since Sam’s interview, doesn’t indicate how unnecessarily far the media has taken the issue, I don’t know what does.
There’s a chance the story will die down as time goes on, but considering how much attention Sam has gotten just as a Missouri prospect, you can imagine the amount of coverage he might receive once his name is called in the draft, and then when he reports to minicamp. I suppose we can’t leave out each time he takes the field during the season as well.
The same type of “Tebow coverage” has seemingly become the norm for many networks, who insist on beating the proverbial dead horse.
Outside of football, it can be seen in today’s mainstream sports news. Although reports have indicated that teammates of Jason Collins, the NBA’s first openly gay player to appear in a game, don’t view his sexuality as a headlining story, none other than Collins’ name was plastered on TV highlight reels after he recently came off the bench for the Brooklyn Nets.
In all seriousness, Sam deserves as much respect as any non-athlete for choosing to take on his identity and face the public with it.
The fact that he is the first openly gay player to enter the draft makes him an obvious target for news, too. But at some point, especially considering how quickly he has already been forced to “settle” the media, a line has to be drawn between coverage and sensationalism.
It needs to be done not only to respect Sam and his decisions as a person but also everyone who follows football and other players who may or may not have expressed their sexuality.