Barrier broken, not shattered by Sam’s NFL drafting

Times-Herald Editorial Staff
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Michael Sam is not set on being remembered as a footnote.

Former University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam reacts during a game at Faurot Field during the 2013 season. Sam has become the first openly gay player in the history of the National Football League.

While Rider Nation looks forward to this week’s Canadian Football League Draft, the name Sam might not ring a bell. However, Sam was involved in a culturally significant move made south of the border Saturday.

The former University of Missouri defensive lineman was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round of the 2014 National Football League (NFL) draft.

In case you forgot or were unaware, Sam is gay.

As such, the Rams’ decision to “take a chance” on the reigning Southeastern Conference Co-Defensive Player of the Year has already been met with plenty of remarks — mostly positive, but not all of them.

We should be past comments like the one Miami Dolphins safety Don Jones made via Twitter soon after the Rams selected Sam, but clearly we aren’t.

Jones’ tweet, which included the word “horrible” — in reference to Sam’s selection with the 249th overall pick in the draft — has since been deleted. That being said, it was still cast out into the yawning stratosphere that is social media and open to endless critique.

Granted, no openly gay player had ever been drafted before Sam, but Jones’ tweet still shows there is a long way to go not just among NFL ranks, but also in the sports world itself with regard to the acceptance of gay athletes.

Although Jones tweeted out his disdain against Sam, the big man was probably more upset about being one of the last 10 picks in the draft.

His stats last year alone should have made him a mid-round draft pick, but every year players slide down draft boards for unexplained reasons.

Sam was one of those players, mostly, however, as a result of his sexuality.

But his reaction to hearing the news he’d dreamed about since he was a kid when Rams head coach Jeff Fisher told him St. Louis was drafting him was priceless.

Emotion poured out of Sam like any other football player whose dream had finally been realized. So what if that emotion produced a kiss between he and his boyfriend.

Young men kiss their wives and girlfriends all the time when they are drafted and our skin isn’t tickled. Why should it be that way when Sam — or any other homosexuals — kisses his significant other?

Good on Michael Sam for letting go Saturday. He should not be ashamed of any of his actions in those moments of sheer joy.

His drafting was just another step toward the realization of his dream coming full circle. Now he just needs to go on that football field, work his tail off and secure a spot on the Rams’ active roster come September.

Although a small barrier in the sports world was broken Saturday, sports fans should just consider Sam another NFL draft pick.

It should not matter that he is gay. If he can play, he can play.

All Times-Herald editorials are written by its editorial staff.

Organizations: National Football League, St. Louis Rams, Canadian Football League Draft University of Missouri Miami Dolphins

Geographic location: St. Louis

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