Being gay should not affect a career

Being gay should not affect a career

Dewey Mullis

He is 6 feet 2 inches tall, weighs 256 pounds, is a First Team All-American, a Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year and he is gay.

Michael Sam made headlines with his public announcement in an interview with ESPN last week.

Poised to be drafted between the third and fifth rounds of the 2014 NFL Draft, Sam must now face the likelihood that his announcement will damage his potential draft success, ESPN’s Adam Schechter said.

“Teams will pick another player than select Sam because of the distraction he will bring,” Schechter said.

But if Sam is drafted, he will become the first openly gay player in the NFL.

It is unfortunate that we still live in a time and place where being a gay man in a professional sport is considered a distraction and seems to have a negative influence on what really matters to the athlete: the game.

Why is it such big news that he is gay? As support for same-sex rights increases, why does orientation have to be detrimental to a professional athlete’s career?

It is with topics like this that we tend to lose touch with the reality that professional athletes are, indeed, more human than we sometimes allow them to act. They are role models of superhero-like nature as long as their statistics and abilities continue to wow spectators.

Sam told ESPN that he broke the news to the media before somebody else did because it wouldn’t be right. His story needed to come from him – he wanted to own it.

If there is any news story to be had here, it is the strong character of Sam and his wish to still be considered an athlete first and a gay man second in the eyes of the draft. While being serious and candid about who he is as an individual, his priority is still the game he loves and the team he hopes to be a part of.

“I want to play for any team that knows I’m gay but picks me because I’m an athlete,” Sam said in the interview.

He has certainly proven himself on the field with an extensive and impressive resume from his four years at Missouri. In the statistical aspect of the draft, Sam would be a solid selection.

The conclusion that Sam’s coming out could hurt his draft opportunity shows us that being open about who you are carries negative weight – especially if it could be controversial.

Sam’s truth shouldn’t be controversial.

Dewey Mullis, a junior criminal justice major from Wallburg, is an opinion writer.