Michael Sam hasn’t played one snap in the National Football League, yet he is already creating more headlines than most college players hoping to be drafted next month.
Sam, a standout college player from the University of Missouri, became the first openly gay player that will eventually be in the NFL. Of all social issues, perhaps nothing garners more attention in today’s media than gay rights, and Sam’s coming out in early February set the social media world ablaze.
No one doubts his talent, well, they didn’t until the announcement at least. Now his skill level has come into question, along with many other items that any interested NFL team will have to think about before selecting him on draft day.
Will Michael Sam fit in the NFL?
I’m sure that regardless of their beliefs about gay rights, most NFL players would be ok playing alongside Michael Sam. It is, after all, his abilities on the field that matter the most.
The counterpoint here is just how much Sam’s openly gay persona will affect the locker room atmosphere. Look at it this way, football is a man’s game – only the toughest mentally and physically excel in this brutal sport. In a way, the National Football League breeds a culture of tough alpha males. These guys basically live together for half the year, seeing their teammates more than family. Most will end up showering together in the locker room without a second thought, because these are a bunch of extremely straight macho men.
Throw in Michael Sam to the mix – will he get his own space? Will certain teammates want locker room segregation? What will his place be in a room overloaded with testosterone? These, among many others, are all questions that we won’t have an answer to until this summer’s training camps begin.
Is Sam at risk?
One point I keep coming across in discussions is whether or not Michael Sam will become a target for cheap shots on the field. As I mentioned earlier, I have no doubt that most players in the NFL will not even open their mouth about Sam being on their team, but there are bound to be some homophobic characters out there who might rather see him being carted off the field than as a part of their game. It’s a morbid thought, but one worth discussing.
Paving The Way for Future Gay Athletes
Michael Sam didn’t have to announce his sexual orientation, but he did and that took a lot of guts. He will most likely be paving the way for other athletes down the road to feel more comfortable with their own sexuality. The addition of Sam to any locker room will be a storyline worth following. Imagine if he ended up in Miami last year with Richie Incognito during that whole debacle!
Is Your Team Ready for Michael Sam?
An interesting Twitter analysis was conducted, which attempted to sort through thousands of tweets immediately following Sam’s coming out announcement in all of the NFL’s markets based on three sentiments: positive, negative or neutral. This study attempted to show which markets would be most accepting of having an openly gay player on their team. To no one’s surprise, New York ended up on top of the list followed by St. Louis, Chicago and San Francisco. The list bottomed out with Nashville, Green Bay and Oakland.
This begs the question: is your team ready for Michael Sam? Do you even care? Most real fans will just look at what he produces on the field and leave it at that, but there will always be dissenters in the mix. Sound off in the comments section and let us know your thoughts.