Media outlets love to hold the public and private sector accountable for creating or eliminating jobs. Sometimes what gets lost in the midst of unemployment coverage are the jobs that journalism ruin.
Michael Sam, a footballer for the University of Missouri, shared in an interview with ESPN on Sunday, February 9 that he is gay. This is not the Jason Collins gay rights propaganda where a professional basketballer at the end of his career announces his sexuality and a year later is not on a team. Collins is out of the league not due to his presence of homosexuality but rather his absence of premier talent. Sam’s professional career has not even begun.
This is not Sam’s first time playing with teammates who know he’s gay. He shared his sexual preference with his University of Missouri football team in August. He went on to become the co-defensive player of the year of the Southeastern Conference and a first-team All-American. If immature college students can handle playing with a gay teammate how can grown men struggle with the task? These professional athletes have played for teams throughout the country. They have had personal medical staff since high school and private tutors throughout college. They have had at least 50 coaches throughout their career athletic career and met each of their families. The organizations which they work for are the number one employer by labor force in their respective city. Every player on a professional football roster is in the highest tax bracket. They require lifestyles and services for high income earners. To think these men have become professional athletes without productive collaborations with gay men at some point and likely throughout their athletic history is ignorant. A team will rally around a convicted felon if he can help the team win. Why would they reject a homosexual?
Sam said that he revealed his homosexuality before the NFL draft because he was “afraid the media would leak it out and I would not be able to own my truth.” Originally, he planned to “tell whatever team I got drafted and tell the owner and the coach and the GM about my sexuality.” The defensive end who registered 11.5 sacks on opposing quarterbacks this season was now protecting himself from a media blitz.
In this journalistic game of battleship, media companies seek prejudiced stories and destroy careers. Detractors may cite New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma or an anonymous NFL team official for claiming the league is not prepared when asked about the presence of an openly gay player. Perhaps they are being asked the wrong question.
Ask these professionals how smoothly they adjusted to their first gay cousin, athletic trainer, tutor, coach’s son, accountant or lawyer and suddenly the perspective changes. Either the press will press pause on their media reel or Sam may have to press pause on his highlight reel. Because if he did one thing wrong in this announcement, it was thinking he could beat the media.