Michael Sam made headlines on Sunday when he officially announced that he was gay. The 2013 SEC co-Defensive Player of the Year and All-American with the Missouri Tigers is on the verge of becoming the first openly gay athlete in the NFL if he finds a home in the 2014 NFL Draft this May. But there are many NFL scouts and front office executives who expect Sam’s announcement to dramatically impact his draft stock, perhaps even pushing him out of the draft altogether. The reasoning behind their thinking is incredibly disappointing.
According to Sports Illustrated, who talked with a number of NFL personnel on the condition of anonymity who would be involved in the draft process for their teams, Sam’s coming out will probably dramatically impact where he gets drafted. Projected as a possible third-round pick by many, Sam could expect to see his stock drop all the way to the final rounds of the draft or to go undrafted altogether, according to theses anonymous sources. One assistant coach explained why:
“There are guys in locker rooms that maturity-wise cannot handle it or deal with the thought of that. There’s nothing more sensitive than the heartbeat of the locker room. If you knowingly bring someone in there with that sexual orientation, how are the other guys going to deal with it? It’s going to be a big distraction. That’s the reality. It shouldn’t be, but it will be.”
So according to this coach, teams should pass on Sam, who recorded an SEC-leading 11.5 sacks in 2013, because other members of the team, supposedly adults, aren’t mature enough to handle it. Meanwhile, Sam’s college teammates at Missouri have been dealing with it all season long as the defensive end came out to his teammates before the 2013 season. College kids were able to handle playing with Sam and Missouri came an SEC-title win away from playing for the BCS National Championship in one of the biggest turnarounds of the year from their rough 2012 season.
If those 18-20 year old football players at Missouri could handle it in a mature fashion then grown men being paid huge sums of money to play the game should be able to find the maturity to deal with it. Using the immaturity and small-mindedness of some as a reason to exclude Michael Sam from the NFL would be a huge injustice and a terribly disappointing endorsement of discrimination. It’s 2014 and it’s time for the NFL locker room to grow up.