COLUMBIA, Mo. — A 24-year-old defensive lineman from the University of Missouri sent shockwaves through the NFL Sunday when he publicly embraced the possibility of being drafted to a team with “openly straight” members.
While Michael Sam has already proven his acceptance of teammates with opposite-sex attractions at Missouri, it remains unclear whether the largest major sports league in the nation will prove equally as tolerant.
For decades, the presence of straight football players has remained an open secret in locker rooms across the country. Rumors of romantic relationships between players and female counterparts run rampant, as do knowing glances and coded messages concerning the athletes’ desire to “tap the ass of some fine honeys after the game.”
While the NFL has a non-discrimination policy on the books, never before has a courageous, openly gay prospect for the league like Sam come forward to say he has “no problem playing with straight footballers,” even the ones who “openly flaunt their heterosexuality and kiss their partners in public.”
“I never had a problem with my [straight] teammates,” said Sam. “Some of my coaches were worried, but there was never an issue.”
Eventually, even Sam’s coach at Missouri came around to his enlightened thinking. “Michael is a great example of just how important it is to be respectful of others,” said coach Gary Pinkel. “He’s taught a lot of people here firsthand that it doesn’t matter what your background is, or your personal orientation, we’re all on the same team and we all support each other.”
Pinkel was so moved by his most valuable player’s bravery that he came out as straight to the team immediately following Sam’s landmark ESPN interview.
Some familiar faces in football are more skeptical that other NFL players can live up to the level of acceptance exhibited by Sam—who also goes by the name of ‘Sams’ when being discussed by football analysts who lack the common courtesy or professionalism to know the name of the person they are being paid to discuss on television.
Recently, commentator Herman Edwards compared “Sams” to a “player with field issues” who is “bringing baggage into your locker room.”
“The locker room is supposed a sanctuary for homoerotic butt slaps, naked conversations filled with innuendo, and long, steamy showers after a game,” Edwards told viewers. “Just knowing that some of those very same players could be straight gives me the heebie-jeebies.”