A veteran Texas sportscaster is being praised for sticking it to critics of potentially the first openly gay player in the NFL, Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam.
Sam was a first-team all-American and defensive player of the year in what is widely considered to be the top conference in college football in 2013, and was expected to be drafted in the early rounds of this year’s NFL Draft in May. But on February 8th, Sam shocked the world and came out to ESPN saying that he is gay.
Within the past two-and-a-half months, Sam has received more coverage than he did in his entire career at Missouri. The sports world was in shambles. People praised him for his courage, more people were shocked that a gay man was playing football, and even more people wondered why he came out when he did.
The sports world wasn’t the only thing that was in limbo. Sam made his public declaration before he was drafted, which could be detrimental to his career, especially in the NFL, arguably the most masculine group of people there are. The NFL has recently been plagued by controversies of homophobia that have attracted recent attention.
Dale Hansen, the Dallas area reporter, slammed NFL officials who told Sports Illustrated that Sam’s announcement would hurt his draft status because it made players feel “uncomfortable” and that the NFL locker room “was a man’s world.”
“You beat a woman and drag her down a flight of stairs, pulling her hair out by the roots? You’re the fourth guy taken in the NFL draft,” Hansen said on his ‘Dale Hansen Unplugged’ segment.
“You kill people while driving drunk? That guy’s welcome.”
Hansen did admit that gay men occasionally made him uncomfortable: “I don’t understand his world, but I do understand that he’s part of mine.”
In the two-and-a-half months since Sam came out, the NFL and the public still have mixed feelings about the whole situation. The NFL conducted an anonymous survey of 51 NFL players about a week after Sam’s announcement to its players, and 44 (86 percent) answered false when asked if a teammate’s sexual orientation mattered to them
The public, however, has had a slightly different reaction. Most people are completely against the idea of a gay man in the NFL. Michael Messner states, “modern sport has clearly been among the most masculine of institutions” (Taking the Field: Men, Women, and Sports, 66). Football has long been seen as the mecca of macho-ness if you will, and I don’t believe the public is ready to accept a gay man into something as manly as the NFL.
Michael Oriard, an ex-professional football player who played four years in the NFL for the Kansas City Chiefs, wrote about how football was promoted as a sport to toughen up weak men when many felt they were becoming too soft. Allowing a gay man into the NFL would, in the eyes of the public, soften up the game and would lose the masculinity factor that has made it so popular with our generation.
Hansen ended his segment saying, “I want to believe that there will be a day when we do celebrate [gay people]. I don’t know if that day’s here yet. I guess we’re about to find out.”
Somebody give that man a mic so he can drop it and walk off.