Or... "I Finally Get to Talk about Football in a Blog - Sort of."
First, let me get out of the way the fact that I'm a huge football fan; always have been. I always loved playing it, and I love watching it, although as I get older, I find myself getting more and more angry at these unappreciative "kids" who don't play the game with the same level of ardor, dedication or character with which I felt it was played when I was young. That having been said, I still love the game, and it bothers me when I have to remember that the NFL, like all professional sports, is a business, albeit an entertainment business.
In fact, it's big business. It's a multi-billion dollar industry, with worldwide reach.
Unfortunately, the uglier side of that "business" sometimes asserts itself. All "businesses" are subject to the same anti-discrimination laws as are more traditional businesses, right down to the mom and pop gas station on your corner, and all the way up to Fortune 100 Companies like Microsoft, Xerox, and, of course, the NFL (and every independently owned "business" - teams - within it).
I blogged some time ago about the fact that when Michael Sam, the first openly gay player in the NFL, had been drafted, there was cause for celebration. The cause for celebration isn't just for LGBT people, who of course were heartened and happy to have a person in a "mainstream" job like professional football player be open and proud, yet at the same time, be eager to move beyond sexual orientation and "just do his job." I'll not forget the story right after draft day last year about how he hugged his boyfriend just like every other player hugged their girlfriend, and while some idiots made some comments about it, most people were able to move immediately on.
That alone - the short time period of the "commentary" and the only sparse negative commentary - is a sign of the times, and evidence that a great deal has changed with regards to Civil Rights in the United States. By no means have we gotten "past" discrimination against LGBT folk, but we've come a long way.
But since then, we've had plenty of players embarrass themselves, their teams, and the game, by behaving atrociously. The NFL's response has been spotty at best, as it's always been. These men are, after-al, money makers for their teams and for the league, so the NFL continues to look beyond conduct no other employer would tolerate. At the same time, we've had commentary by "officials" at the NFL suggesting that Michael Sam would make things "uncomfortable" in the locker room.
Now, rather than I, myself, talking about the hypocrisy of the National Football League, I'm going to repeat below, verbatim, the exceptionally well-reasoned "rant" of Sportscaster Dale Hansen. This is from a telecast of his from more than a year ago, in February 2014, when Michael Sam had just "outed" himself. Listen not only to his support of Michael Sam, but to the hypocrisy of "officials" in the NFL saying that Michael Sam would make things "uncomfortable" in locker rooms because of his sexual orientation (when the NFL is willing to accept so much "worse" than being gay).
Without further ado, here's Dale:
"It was quite a weekend. There was a little dust up in Lubbock on Saturday night, and then yesterday, Missouri's All American defensive-end, Michael Sam, the SEC's Defensive Player of the Year and expected third round to fifth round pick in the NFL Draft, tells the world he's gay. The best defensive player in college football's best conference, only a 3rd to 5th round NFL pick? Really? That is shocking, and I guess that other thing is, too. Michael Sam would be the first openly gay player in the NFL, says he knows there will be problems. and they've already started. Several NFL officials telling Sports Illustrated that it will hurt him on draft day because a gay player wouldn't be welcome in an NFL locker room. It would be "uncomfortable" because that's a "man's world."
You beat a woman and drag her down a flight of stairs, pulling her hair out by the roots, you're the fourth guy taken in the NFL Draft. You kill people while driving drunk, that guy is welcome. Players caught in hotel rooms with illegal drugs and prostitutes, we know they're welcome. Players accused of rape and paid the woman to go away. You lied to police trying to cover up a murder? We're comfortable with that. You love another man? Now you've gone too far. It wasn't that long ago when we were being told that black players couldn't play in our game because it would be uncomfortable. Even when they finally could, it took several more years before a black man played quarterback, because we weren't comfortable with that, either.
So many of the same people who used to make that argument and the many who still do, are the same people who said government should stay out of our lives, but they want government in our bedrooms. I've never understood how they feel comfortable laying claim to both sides of that argument. I'm not always comfortable when a man tells me he is gay. I don't understand his world. But I do understand that he is part of mine. Civil rights activist Andre Lawrence said, "It is not our differences that divide us, it is our inability to recognize, accept and celebrate those differences." We've always been able to recognize them, some of us accept them and I want to believe that there will be a day when we do celebrate them. I don't know if that day is here yet, I guess we're about to find out. But when I listen to Michael Sam I do think it is time to celebrate him now."
That's perfect. It sums up what my job is all about better than I ever have. I still love football, but right now, I'm hoping that it gets its shit together.