Michael Sam deserves headlines

MAGGIE MONSON | Columnist

A college football player publicly announced that he is gay, sparking a nationwide conversation about gay athletes.

Michael Sam, who was a defensive lineman at the University of Missouri, first told a small group of his teammates during a team-building exercise in August. He told The New York Times in a Feb. 9 article.

Sam graduated in December after an extremely successful fall season with Missouri. He spoke to both The Times and ESPN about his sexuality and his desire to tell his story his way.

Several National Football League draft forecasters have predicted he will be chosen in the third round of the April draft.

I have seen multiple people question, on social media, why Sam’s sexuality is finding its way into most major news outlets. The most obvious reason is that he will be the first publicly gay player in the NFL if he is drafted.

This fact is newsworthy in itself. The NFL employs roughly 1,600 players at any given moment during the season, according to the Times article. The NFL has never employed a player who is openly gay during his career.

In fact, there are no publicly gay players on any rosters in the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League or Major League Baseball.

The world of professional sports is all about masculinity.Sports teams celebrate physical strength and emotional toughness. Being gay does not fit neatly into the masculine athlete stereotype.

This is an important conversation to have on a national level. Sports culture has remained almost exactly the same since these leagues began, while society has become more accepting of gay people.

We should be talking about the first potentially openly gay man in the NFL.

He will be an important person to remember in gay rights’ history.

Football players receive attention in the media constantly for reasons that extend beyond the scope of their athletic ability. Gay men playing sports may make some people feel uncomfortable, but that is not a reason to keep the story out of the headlines.

In fact, this is more of a reason to talk about the issue. Sam is an accomplished athlete who has overcome many challenges in his life. Hopefully the national discussion about his sexual orientation will cause some people to address why they feel uncomfortable.

Finally, football players are heroes for many children. They idolize their favorite players, wearing their numbers and watching every game. A gay football star shows kids they can be successful and accepted no matter what kind of people they are.

Promoting childrens’ self-esteem is a worthwhile goal, no matter how one individually feels about gay men. News outlets contain a variety of stories about how various social issues affect self-esteem. This story is no exception.

Sam’s sexual orientation has nothing to do with his football playing abilities. However, his story has received so much attention because he is making history and changing a dominantly masculine sports culture.

This makes Sam newsworthy. Justin Bieber was arrested, and every major news outlet covered the story. Michael Sam came out and potentially inspired young gay children to try out for sports when they were too afraid before.

I would say Sam deserves the headlines.

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