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Sports Illustrated greeted the historic news of University of Missouri's superstar defensive lineman Michael Sam's coming out with a collective sigh. SI published its reaction piece only minutes after the announcement ... which quoted eight anonymous sources within the National Football League. The ugliest comment was made by a personnel player assistant:
"I don't think football is ready for it just yet. In the coming decade or two, it's going to be acceptable, but at this point in time it's still a man's man game. To call somebody a [gay slur] is still so commonplace. It'd chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room."
Another anonymous assistant coach described Sam's decision as "not a smart move." SI claims that "multiple executives" questioned the decision to come out as well.
Sam apparently came out to his Mizzou teammates last August before the 2013 season. The coaches and players supported and protected him. The team went 12-2 in the SEC and won the Cotton Bowl. Obviously there were no "locker room" issues.
The comments are a sobering reminder that the 24-year-old player faces an uphill battle in the hyper-masculine and homophobic culture of the NFL.
Sam made history to become the first Division I college football player to come out as gay. The 6-foot-2, 260-pound Mizzou senior is a top NFL draft pick. Sam is the 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, was named a first-team all-American and was voted Missouri's most valuable player. SI minimized Sam's accomplishments and claimed the player was "divisive."
Others see Sam ... as an undersized defensive end without a true position in the NFL. Of his 11.5 sacks, nine came in three games against what one scout called "garbage competition"—Vanderbilt, Arkansas State and Florida. "His numbers are inflated," a scout said.
The Southeastern Conference is the most competitive conference in the NCAA Division I. So now the 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year's numbers are "inflated"? Heehee. You keep telling yourself that, hon.
Former NFL player Wade Davis, former Division I basketball player Will Sheridan and former American Basketball Association player DeMarco Majors discussed the landscape for professional Black gay athletes with me in the award-winning and critically-acclaimed 2012 anthology For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Not Enough. The book was edited by television commentator Keith Boykin.
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