Michael Sam drastically changed this week’s planned sports coverage. By outing himself as being a gay person, Sam has helped open up the discussion about gay athletes in sports. And no matter your beliefs on same-sex relationships, discourse is something that needed to be had.
It’s not just that the former Missouri Tigers and SEC Defensive Player of the Year took his personal life public, though. It was also the way in which his team handled the situation.
Without going through all the things you have already heard or read, let’s give a quick recap. Sam told his teammates in August. We are now finding out that media outlets knew for a substantial amount of time. It is also being said that while some of his teammates do not believe in Sam’s sexuality, that they still somehow (magically even, if you are a bigot) were able to stay together as a team and be a very good team in the best conference in the country. All while Sam being gay was, apparently, a little to no distraction to the people involved in the locker room.
A few days have passed now. So naturally the story has changed. It has gone from praising Sam’s courage and the way most people didn’t overreact to it, to how it might alter his draft stock, endorsement money, etc. All of which are fair game, but none of which help increase the discussion about tolerating gay athletes in sports.
Quickly, so some of you don’t mistake my discourse for a hidden agenda, I am pretty liberal. Not in all aspects of life, but in most. I believe that whatever one person wants to do in their free time is their business. In fact, I am a firm believer that the only genitalia I am concerned about are my lady’s. Outside of her using her private’s for strictly my own pleasure (and birthing and urinating I guess), you are all free to poke, prod, take in and/or do whatever it is that you want with your thingamabobs. Honestly, it has zero effect on my day, at all. So go feel free to do whatever you want, but please just leave the goats alone.
At the same time I say all of that, though, I realize that while I want tolerance, respect and education for people who might not be considered “traditional”, that I too have to be tolerant of those who might not agree with my viewpoint. Whether it be for religious, political or any other reason, their opinion might be that gay relationships are wrong. And you know what? So be it. If that is their belief, then I must respect it. Preaching tolerance is great, but we must also practice. Tolerance works both ways.
But if I am admittedly saying that we must respect those who don’t agree with same-sex relationships, what does that mean for the gay athlete and those in the same locker room who does not like that person’s lifestyle?
It means all the parties involved need to be educated. Someone like Jonathan Vilma — who was recently quoted as saying he wouldn’t want a gay person in the shower with him because of the attraction he would have for straight Vilma — would have to learn that gay people do not find all men attractive. It is much similar to the way that not all women find all men handsome. Maybe Vilma is special. Possibly so good-looking that no one could resist. But if that is the case then he has a bigger problem than gays in the locker room. He is in the wrong business. A man that attractive should be a model, not bashing his head against 300-pound beasts every Sunday.
There would also need to be an educational curve to be taught to the gay athletes. That sometimes not every comment, remark or look, is something that is directed toward them out of hatred or bigotry. A sports locker room is so weird to begin with. With cliques inside cliques. With educated people from different backgrounds. A place where humor is both subjective and objective. Things can be quickly taken out of context if a remark is to be said to the wrong person — even if it was in jest (see the Miami Dolphins).
Some form of understanding or foundation of understanding needs to be put out by every school, franchise and organization.
The educational lessons would need to be far more than what I hurled out (obviously), but those were just a few examples.
There’s some easy, good news though. As time passes, the supposed distraction of a gay person in a locker room will become to be known as not a distraction. Because really, it is only a distraction because we (fans, media, bloggers, social media) make it one.
I have kids. You might too (they aren’t mine, though. I SWEAR!). They are likely to be even more tolerant to people than you or I. How do I know that? Because we are all likely far more tolerable and respectful to others than our parents. I’m not trying to say your parents are bad people, but it’s just a form of tolerance evolution.
It’s similar to the way suburban teenagers aren’t scared of urban kids because rap has been so popular for such a long time now. All of which is code for saying white kids aren’t afraid of or think less of black kids for being black. Not that white kids understand black people or culture more, but they are more open to learning about it because they think it is cool. While that is actually bad (because it ignores how hard and how long and hard it has been to be a black person in this country), it is a step in the right direction. A misguided step, mind you, but a step nevertheless.
To keep pushing on my point. Your great granddad might have been a racist because he might have never met a black person or even seen one via a news outlet. You, however, have been around people of all cultures since birth. Well, unless you live in a box down by the river.
Really, it boils down to exposure. The more you have been exposed to the more tolerable you will be.
Growing up around different people and different cultures will obviously make you more tolerable because you are born into that place of thinking. Really, it isn’t even thinking. It is a belief that all people are basically the same because you never heard any different. This has already been proven by the way the media (mostly) covers gay people. Not just in sports but in all aspects of entertainment. Ellen DeGeneres has her own talk show. Not because she is gay, but because enough people find her funny. Her being gay is just a side note to her being a comedian.
Eh, this is really just me speaking out of my pay grade a little bit. See, I never majored in human brain studies or religion or anything like that. I just think that if one fella likes another man, why would I care? It doesn’t have a single thing to do with me. If it makes them happy then I am happy. Why would anyone want anyone else to be unhappy?
As mentioned before, however, tolerance works both ways. I not only tolerate people who oppose gay relationships, but I even respect it. Not because I agree with them but because I can see where they come from. Because I have and continue to take the time to learn about as many religions, cultures and whatnot as humanly possible. I’m not saying I am this great person of equality, but I at least attempt to make an effort before I judge someone or something else one way or another.
And that is all people who are in and support same-sex relationships want from them.
Now. Coming back full-circle to the question in the headline of the article. Would a gay athlete be accepted in college basketball?
Of course. Why not? If the kid can play then he can play. It won’t even be a distraction. Sure, initially it might be a distraction to those who oppose it and maybe the player him or herself, but that will only last until the next big story. And if the next big story happens to be another athlete outing him or herself? Well, then it no longer becomes a story. Just another side-note to that person’s life just like Ellen.
And yes, I dropped two too many Ellen references in this piece. But you know what? I think she is kinda funny. Regardless of what she does what her genitals.
Author’s note: This article does not reflect the opinions of other Busting Bracket writers or that of the FanSided Network in general. It is of the author (WHICH IS ME?!) and his alone. So lay off the nose candy and stay outta the pokey, kids.