A different ball game

TAYLOR HANCOCKOpinion Columnist

University of Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam has been highlighted in news articles, television and radio this week, but not strictly because of his talent as a football player. At a restaurant Sunday night, Sam confessed to a journalist that he was gay. The statement was not a surprise to teammates or fellow students, but this was the first time he had made a public statement about his homosexuality.

Michael Sam has now risked his placement in the NFL.

Sam graduated from the University of Missouri in December and was an important contributor to the team. Sam’s superior athletic skills have made him a potential NFL player, and he will be listed in the NFL draft in May.

Sam already has a great story of success and has conquered numerous obstacles. He has had many family struggles. Two of his brothers are currently in jail. Another brother disappeared in 1998. His oldest brother died of a gunshot wound. None of these events have kept Sam from excelling and working diligently toward a professional football career.

Robbie Rogers, an American soccer player, announced that he is openly gay last February. Jason Collins, a basketball player for the Celtics, did the same in April. Collins has played in the NBA for 12 seasons. “But football dwarfs all other sports in popularity,” according to “Sports Illustrated.” Sam would be the first openly gay player in the NFL if he makes it through the combine and is drafted.

Sports experts said that he could be picked in the third round of the draft, which is good positioning for Sam. Recruiters certainly already knew that Sam was gay, but he has caused his judgment to come into question. Whether he made the announcement to gather media attention for himself or he felt the need to be honest, it would have sufficed to respectfully tell the coach of whichever team he might play for in the NFL.

Sam’s sexual orientation is his own concern and does not need to be public knowledge. “Once I became official to my teammates, I knew who I was,” Sam said, according to the New York Times. “I knew that I was gay. And I knew that I was Michael Sam, who’s a Mizzou football player who happens to be gay.”

Telling people that he is gay does not change the fact that he believes he is homosexual.

By announcing that he is homosexual, he is only drawing attention to himself and ultimately giving fans and recruiters a reason to have concerns about him and possibly take sides with or against him.

This aspect of the player should be kept private. These personal statements bring politics into athletics. Personal and professional lives should be separate.

Taylor Hancock is a sophomore journalism and mass communication major. Email her at thancoc1@samford.edu.

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