Michael Sam's Gay...Now, Who's Gonna Draft Him?
The returns would seem to be in regarding the NFL's acceptance of University of Missouri senior Michael Sam, the league's first openly gay player -- or at least the man who would be the league's first openly gay player if he's drafted in May.
Shannon Sharpe, former All-Pro and now commentator for CBS Sports, tweeted, "I don't know Michael Sam but I think he wants to be known as a gr8 FB player, that happens to be gay.Big ups M.Sam, make us proud."
Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams told his followers, "I could care less about a man's sexual preference! I care about winning games and being respectful in the locker room!"
Tiki Barber commented, "Great courage by SECDef POY [in English, that's Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year]. It's time for the NFL to show its colors!"
And the NFL did show its colors, sort of.
The league released this statement through a spokesman:
SSG Teddy Wade via Wikimedia Commons NFL commissioner Roger Goodell
"We admire Michael Sam's honesty and courage. Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014."
The statement meant more than meets the eye, given that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's brother is openly gay.
But it would have meant more if Goodell had made the statement himself.
It's fair to be curious as to why the most powerful man in the most powerful league in sports didn't call his own number on this one instead of handing off to a subordinate.
For that matter, where are the NFL's biggest names? On Monday, Monte Burke wrote on Forbes.com that "[t]he best fits for Sam and the attention that will come with him will be those franchises that are stable and have very strong leadership on and off the field."
The teams Burke cites include the Patriots -- particularly because "Tom Brady, the veteran quarterback, is a vocal and demonstrative leader on the field and in the locker room" -- and the Broncos, because "Peyton Manning is the undisputed leader of the team and a man who handles the media very well. If he tells the team to keep their focus on football, they will."
I think Burke is right, but so far the two most recognizable names in pro football haven't spoken up. Neither, for that matter, has the league's best-known defensive player, Richard Sherman. Just a couple of short weeks ago, Sherman was doing an artful job of fielding questions about being a "thug" and winning new admirers for his articulate refutation of the new racism.
How much it would mean right now if Sherman were to come out and openly support Mike Sam.
And wouldn't it be nice if Tim Tebow, who weathered some tough press himself, were to speak up to the inevitable backlash by the extreme Christian right, whose strongholds are to be found in the areas where football is most popular.