Day Two of the Michael Sam Announcement.... 8:02am
Yesterday was a historic day.
Michael Sam, an all SEC former defensive End for the University of Missouri announced that he was gay. This came before the NFL draft and was, by his own admission, his way of getting ahead of a story that was sure to come out - he wanted to control his own narrative.
Here are some of the points that I heard in my travels about the earth yesterday:
The somewhat cynical: An african-American caller into a south Jersey sports talk station said: He is African-American and chose to come out during Black History month so that he could be seen as a Jackie Robinson-like figure and position himself to make a lot of money speaking and writing about his situation
My take: The kid is a football player who is in the NFL draft. If he parlays his identity towards endorsements and speaking engagements then so be it - that would be no different than any elite athlete.
The Football Reaction: he is a good football player and if he will help my team win I don’t care about his sexual orientation.
My take: great, hopefully, he will get drafted in a higher round!
The Hopeful: Is he single?
My take: good luck on managing all that attention Michael Sam! You just made yourself one of the most sought after gay men in the world!
On Transforming Locker Room Culture
The most incredible thing that I heard yesterday was not even about Sam but rather it was about his coach and team in Missouri. Michael Sam came out to his teammates in August and it was a defining moment for their season. They rallied around him and around each other and ended up in the SEC title game. They also kept his reality to themselves and did not, in this day of social media, share it with the world.
A critical piece of the University of Missouri story angle of this is what is being said about locker room culture. The coach said that his program has four core values that dictate their culture:
no drug policy (they test weekly)
respect towards women
honoring diversity of all kinds
What struck me about this is that it acknowledges that drugs, violence towards women, and intolerance ARE a problem in college football. Coach Gary Pinkel is intentional about creating a culture which takes those out of the equation.
He is intentionally trying to transform locker room culture.
That, to me, is the most profound thing in all of this. What about the Missouri program can we bring to other programs? I can tell you from my experience being a bit different from the dominant culture in college football locker rooms that these four core values would have been refreshing to hear and know that my coach supported.
People could then be held accountable for not abiding by them.
Maybe Michael Sam will bring that sort of culture, a culture of honestly, no drugs, respect of women and diversity in all its forms, to the NFL?
Lets hope so.