Insert “Tight End” or “Wide Receiver” Joke Here

Circle Saturday, May 10th on your calendar if, like me, LGBT rights and equality are important to you.  That Saturday is the final day of the 2014 NFL draft and by the end of the draft, unless bigotry scores an amazing win, Michael Sam will be the first openly gay individual drafted by a NFL team.

I admit to being pleasantly surprised at this story.  After Jason Collins opened the door last year, becoming the first openly gay player in a major North American team sport, I fully expected others to join him.  What I did not expect was a college athlete, a football player no less, to be the one to walk out the opened door.  American football is a testosterone soaked homage to masculinity.  Tolerance and equality are on an unstoppable march in our society, and eventually no one except the most deranged religious homophobe will care what an athletes sexual orientation.  This day can not come soon enough for me.  Today, however, at the dawn of acceptance in sports, I expected the next pioneers to bravely stand up for who they are to be baseball or basketball players, or perhaps even ice hockey players, eh.  No matter the sport, one thing I expected for sure was that the athlete would already be established.

And more so than the sport, that is the fact that surprises me the most, and the fact that exponentially increases his bravery in my eyes.  Even five years ago, Sam’s actions would have been career suicide.  He doesn’t have the money from a few contracts already in the bank.  He isn’t in the twilight of his career making a statement while he still can.  Michael Sam is a prospect.  His future will be decided in part on the 8th, 9th, and 10th of May when the NFL draft takes place.   The teams could just not draft him.  No one could ever prove why he wasn’t drafted.

Michael Sam coming out is a brave step, and he will be seen as a litmus test by other closeted athletes in all sports.  If he falls from his projected spot in the draft, fair or not, his sexual identity will be seen as the cause of the drop.  If bigotry wins the day and he goes undrafted, how long will it be before another player is willing to risk his career?  On the other hand, if his sexual identity doesn’t cost him draft slots, this could open the flood gates, freeing countless athletes to be true to their identity.  Former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe agrees:

In a Monday interview, Kluwe predicted that Sam’s fate come draft time would be an “important litmus test” for closeted athletes considering coming out, and that a disappointing pick would “tell us a lot about how the NFL is currently viewing the world.”

Also in the interview, Kluwe states that the players won’t be the problem, rather the problem will be with the guys running the team.

“I told him that by and large, the players wouldn’t be a problem,” Kluwe told Salon, but that the “older white men” who own and run the teams would be a different story.

While Chris Kluwe has the experience of being a part of an NFL locker room, I hope his view on the bigotry of players versus management is not colored by his own personal situation.  Two football players from the CFL, Canada’s professional football league, have been disciplined for their own homophobic comments towards Sam.  Anyone want to wager if religion is involved?

“YOW!!!!! Mr/MSam you scared to rub on titties and ass and coochie you gaey, Man up and do some MFN push UPS and get on your knees and submit to God fully.  Come out of her:  Americas Trap….Lil homie don’t go thru with it it’s a trap bruh,

Those are the words of one Arland Bruce.  I am not quite sure what this trap happens to be, or the logic of talking about “titties” and “coochie” while trying to convince someone to drop to their knees and give Jesus a sloppy hummer themselves over to Jesus.  While most NFL players will more than likely be wise enough to keep any personal homophobia out of the media, it is anyone’s guess what the locker room reality will be like.

Of course outside of professional sports, the usual suspects kn0w ratings gold when they see it, and after years of building a following with bigotry and hate, they were not about to let this one pass without comment.  It was, after all, an “assault” on heterosexuals.

Rush Limbaugh has a lot of thoughts about Michael Sam’s decision to almost certainly become the first openly gay player in the history of the NFL. These thoughts may not be coherent, and in truth it may be a bit of a stretch to describe them as “thoughts” rather than “primeval spasms of confusion, resentment and fear” — but he has them nonetheless!

Speaking on his radio show on Tuesday, the right-wing’s favorite pundit responded to Sam’s coming out by saying, “Heterosexuality has no political agenda and there is no agenda attached to it.” He continued: “Heterosexuality does not have activists.”

And then he continued some more: “[Heterosexuals] may be 95, 98 percent of the population — they’re under assault by the 2-5 percent that are homosexual.”

What this has to do with Sam is not clear, although the inference listeners are supposed to make appears to be that Sam’s coming out was evidence of his “political agenda” or — worse still! — proof that he was being manipulated by “activists” who are placing heterosexuals “under assault.”

Wait, what?  If Rush had any credibility to stretch, I’d say he was stretching his credibility.  Being Rush however, all I can do is draw attention to how frightening it is that so many people listen to him.

No matter your view on sports, if you care about equality, this years NFL draft is an event worth following.

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