The media buzz around Michael Sam's coming out presented a substantial opportunity to talk about LGBT people in sports and culture. His coming out received significant media attention, givng GLAAD and partners like You Can Play the opportunity to send a strong message about LGBT inclusion in sports.
GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis joined former professional football player and You Can Play Executive Director Wade Davis in discussing the news with mainstream media outlets. Some themes that occurred was that professional football is ready for an openly gay player, and that Michael Sam has the opportunity to demonstrate to young LGBT people that they can grow up to be anything they want to be, including an NFL player.
Here are some highlights, in case you missed their thoughts on LGBT athletes and sports culture.
"There has been a lot of talk about the locker room, and I think that's a reliance on an outdated stereotype," said Sarah Kate Ellis, president of the advocacy organization GLAAD. "I remember hearing that argument when 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' was being debated, and we can see now first-hand that gay service members who can serve openly are only helping the military and it hasn't been an issue."
"He's going to have to go through his trials, only because he's a rookie and veterans cannot stand rookies," Davis said. "But as far as his sexuality, no one's really going to care because he can play."
But Zeigler and GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis say Sam will inspire other athletes simply by showing them that football players and fans are far more progressive than the NFL officials believe. “Those are outdated stereotypes,” Ellis said, pointing out that Sam’s Mizzou teammates were not only cool with his sexuality, but some even attended gay clubs and pride events with him. “Look at the way those University of Missouri players responded. We have moved forward…He had his best year ever,” Ellis said. “It is a testament to living an authentic life.”
Efforts to stop discrimination at the private level are particularly important because firing an employee for being lesbian, gay, or bisexual is still legal in 29 states. Terminating the employment of a transsexual individual is legal in 33 states, Ellis says…But as the NFL has demonstrated, policy isn't everything. Ellis put it this way, "It's one thing to be able to get married; it's another thing to display that wedding photo on your desk."
Wade made the rounds on his own, too, with national and local outlets:
"There's just so much more visibility for LGBT individuals," Davis said. "You'll see them on TV. There are so many players now who have openly gay family members, whether they're brothers, sisters, aunts or cousins. I think that the world's just very different now, so the conversations that weren't being had when I was playing are being had now."
“[Sam] doesn’t have to live with what I lived with, the internalized homophobia, the double consciousness. He can focus strictly on football like every other player.”
“One thing that Michael told me: ‘Look, man, I can play.’ . . . Those guys [NFL players] only care about one thing: Can you help us win?”
"There will be a smattering of guys who have a problem with it, but the majority of guys will just care about if he can help them win," Davis said. "I'm not saying it's going to be cotton candy for Michael. He'll face the same kind of hazing and joking that all rookies get."
Davis’ first impression of Sam? The guy is intense. “There’s a presence about him that you want to be around him,” says Davis. “What team wouldn’t want someone who transcended any fears they had, that exists with so much courage and strength, to be a part of their team?"
Did you happen to also catch GLAAD's Director of Spanish-Language Media Monica Trasandes on Noticias Mundo Fox? No worries, you can catch up with that, too.