All it took was 10 words for one man to change history. Ten words to redefine a culture that has never seen change quite like this before:
“I’m Michael Sam. I’m a football player, and I’m gay.”
There was a pause that echoed throughout the worldwide sports fanbase when those words were spoken in a Feb. 9 ESPN interview that’s assuredly been viewed countless times and discussed even more.
Some paused in disbelief while others paused in disgust.
Those startled by Sam’s announcement were likely in disbelief because of the magnitude of his words. They were curious to see what the future held for not only Michael Sam but also the team that was going to draft him.
Meanwhile, those who were disgusted seemed to despise him for the simple fact that he was “a happily gay man,” as he referred to himself in that interview: not for the fact that he was named co-defensive player of the year in arguably the toughest conference in all of college football, or the fact that he was months away from living his dream of suiting up to play professional football.
Why has Michael Sam, originally drafted by the St. Louis Rams but recently the latest addition of the Dallas Cowboys practice squad, become such a household name in the past seven months?
Because he decided to do something that so many people in today’s society only dream of doing.
He spoke what was in his heart without worrying what others thought, said, wrote, or even published about him.
For the past seven months, all anyone in the sports world wants to talk about is what Michael Sam is doing and how he is practicing.
How do his teammates feel about him in the locker room?
A recent controversial report by ESPN on Sam’s shower habits took the public’s interest in the rookie to an unnecessary level, all the while forgetting about the feelings of the one man involved: Michael Sam himself.
Has he publicly complained about the extra unnecessary attention brought his way?
No, because he knew all the attention was bound to emerge.
Because of social media, the accessibility for criticism is at an all-time high, and Sam’s controversial announcement has been no exception in today’s unfortunate era of sensational sports news.
That being said, there is still no excuse that for the rest of this young man’s life – he’s only 24 – Sam will probably have to wonder whether or not he can play at the professional level and whether or not he belongs, which is the one question no professional athlete should ever have to ask himself as a result of his personal, off-field choices.
Just like in all sports, football is supposed to be a brotherhood among players: regardless of sexual orientation.
It’s brought all races together, so why can’t we just accept the fact that a talented man is out there living his dream and striving everyday to become a better football player?
Must we, as a society, give him the added pressure of making him prove himself to the fans?
We weren’t the ones that drafted him in the seventh round or signed him to the practice squad, and we aren’t the ones that have to evaluate him.
We just have to respect the fact that he’s just another football player playing the game we love so much.