In a League Where there is a Person Being Held In Prison on Murder Charges; Why Is Michael Sam’s Sexuality Being Called A ‘Distraction’?

Ever since 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year Michael Sam came out as gay[1] it seems like all I’ve been hearing on TV and radio from the sports pundits and NFL insiders, including former players is on ESPN and other sports networks, is “will the others in the locker room be ready to accept Sam and be comfortable around him?” and “is the NFL ready to have an openly gay player?”

In order to try and answer these questions as fully as possible one must try to look at statistics and facts to get a clearer picture. Let’s begin by trying to answer the first question.

“Will The Others In The Locker Room Be Ready To Accept Sam and Be Comfortable Around Him”?

According to the Pew Research Center[2], in an article dated June 6, 2013, 51% of Americans are in favor of allowing gays and lesbians to marry. In the same research it shows that 87% or nearly 9 in 10 Americans personally know someone who is gay or lesbian, which is up from 61% in 1993. When it came to people under 30 years of age 65% of them supported gay marriage.

I bring up these statistics only to show that the views on this issue are changing. Older NFL players will retire and younger players will replace them. That younger generation, if we are to believe these statistics, will be more accepting of their gay teammates.

Taking Michael Sam’s teammates at The University of Missouri as an example they can illustrate what can happen when it is not made an issue as well as how views are shifting. When he told his teammates and his coaches that he was gay no one protested and said they wouldn’t play, no one made him feel uncomfortable, it didn’t affect his game on the field, and most importantly no one ‘outed’ him. He told the world who he was because he wanted to. In fact, after he told his truth to the world his teammates tweeted their support[3] for him.

Now let’s try and answer the second question.

“Is the NFL Ready to Have An Openly Gay NFL Player?”

According to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law[4], a think tank that deals in sexual orientation law and public policy, wrote in 2011 that ‘an estimated 9 million (about 3.8%) of Americans identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Within those numbers 1.8% identified as bisexual, 1.7% as gay or lesbian and 0.3% as transgender. However, it must be stated that those numbers may be misleading because many people may not admit to being LGBT do to the stigma from others around them. The report states that men tended to under-report more than women. There are other statistics[5] that claim that at least 1 out of 10 people are gay while others say it may be 1 out of 20.

Now, try to remember those numbers because now it’s time to do some NFL math.

The NFL is a league which is compromised of 32 teams. Every team is composed of a 53 man roster. Now if you do the math that means that there are a total of 1,696 players on NFL rosters (53 x 32). Going back to the statistic of 1 out of 10 people being gay that would mean that 5 men in any given locker room may be gay. (53/10 = 5.3). On a larger scale that comes out to at least 160 men around the league (5 x 32). I know that only 46 men can dress up for a game, but the numbers were similar I didn’t want to bore you with the same math. Also, if you are familiar with the rules of the NFL[6] each team has to have 11 players on the field. That would mean that both teams had at least one gay player on the field.

So whether players and coaches want to admit it or not they are already probably playing and showering alongside a gay player.

The key term for many people reading this article will be ‘openly.’ To that I would say again to look at Michael Sam’s teammates at University of Missouri. Hopefully, the NFL and its current players can handle it as well as college football players can.

Those questions within themselves bring up other questions; questions like ‘why does a person who wants to peruse their dream in the NFL have to do it at the cost of denying who they are if they happen to be gay? Why does it have to be an either/or situation? Do I play in the NFL at the expense of my true self or do I live my true self and not play in the NFL? Another important question raised is ‘Why does a person have to wait to the NFL is ready?  Shouldn’t the NFL make itself, as a league, ready to make these players feel welcome? For a league that has a revenue around 9 Billion dollars[7] shouldn’t it be on them to make not only the gay players, but the LGBT merchandise, ticket buying public comfortable as well? Or did they think only straight people buy their product?

If Michael Sam is drafted by an NFL team – which looking at his college stats[8] seems likely- then he will become the NFL’s first openly gay player; and if the NFL doesn’t allow this to become a distraction then it won’t. Through a series of tweets[9] former NFL wide receiver Donté Stallworth took down the argument on Sam being a possible distraction.

With everyone’s take on the whole situation about the possibility of the NFL having an openly gay player, including mine, Jon Stewart’s take in a segment called ‘Friday Night Rights’[10] summed it up perfectly.


Works Cited 

[1] “Missouri DE Michael Sam Says He’s Gay.” Outside the Lines. ESPN. 9 Feb. 2014. Web. 17 Mar. 2014. <;.

[2] “In Gay Marriage Debate, Both Supporters and Opponents See Legal Recognition as ’Inevitable’.” The    Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. The Pew Research Center, 6 June 2013. Web. 17 Mar. 2014. <;.

[3] Bradley, Ken. “Missouri teammates show support for Michael Sam.” Sporting News. N.p., 10 Feb. 2014. Web. 17 Mar. 2014. <;.

[4] Gates, Gary J. “How Many People are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender?.” The Williams Institute. UCLA School of Law, Apr. 2011. Web. 17 Mar. 2014. <;.

[5] Johnson, Ramon. “Gay Population Statistics: How Many Gay People Are There?.” Gay Life. Article.  n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2014. <;.

[6] “Rule 5 Players, Substitutes, Equipment, General Rules.” Rulebook. PFD., n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2014. <;

[7] Burke, Monte. “How The National Football League Can Reach $25 Billion In Annual Revenues.” Forbes. N.p., 17 Aug. 2013. Web. 17 Mar. 2014. <;.

[8] “Michael Sam Bio.” University of Missouri , n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2014. <;.

[9] Parziale, James. “Ex-NFL WR’s series of tweets about Sam shoot down distraction argument.” MSN, 11 Feb. 2014. Web. 17 Mar. 2014. <;.

[10] “Friday Night Rights.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central. 10 Feb. 2014. Web. 17 Mar. 2014. <;.