Ah, the world we live in really boggles my mind sometimes. Well, actually, the people in the world we live, really boggle my mind. I just watched a clip from a morning show out of Dallas, Texas called “The Broadcast” and my jaw nearly hit the table! At around the 2:35 minute marker in the clip, one of the anchors, Suzie Humphreys, says the following in response to Michael Sam kissing his partner on ESPN after he got the draft call, “People don’t have the right to express the way they feel if it offends somebody else.” Hmmm, I’m with you so far Suzie. I can see the merit to what you’re saying. Even with Freedom of Speech, I think we as an interconnected, global community should think about what we say and do so as not to offend other people with our expressions.
Oh, wait a second, hold up, Suzie just made that comment in support of the NFL players who tweeted out derogatory messages after ESPN showed Michael Sam kissing his partner. Hmmm, now I’m confused. What Suzie is trying to say is that Michael Sam should not have kissed his partner on live television because his partner (wait for it) was a man!!!!! Well golly, that makes perfect sense, right Suzie? How dare Michael Sam express his joy and excitement that way on national TV! That just ain’t right y’all! His expression was clearly offensive to somebody else. Now let’s look at those tweet happy NFL players who felt the need to express themselves. What do you think Suzie? Do you think anyone from the LGBTQ community might take offense to negative tweets about an honest expression of love between two same sex partners? I suppose they might but come on now, everyone knows that those types of people don’t really matter as much as “All American, God Fearing” people like good old Suzie. I suppose Suzie’s aptly titled twitter handle really says it all – @SuzieSaysSo. Yup, Suzie says so and therefore it must be okay.
As you may have picked up from my tone, I’m more than a little unimpressed with comments like the ones Suzie made. If you keep watching the clip, you’ll see another one of the co-anchors actually storm off the set because she’s so frustrated with the continuous defense of Michael Sam’s genuine, and completely appropriate, expression of excitement. There’s professionalism for ya – storming off a live TV show and throwing a tantrum the likes of a 3 year old. Nope, nothing wrong with that…
I wish that was the only negative reaction to this story but it isn’t. Ever heard of Jack Burkman? Before today, either had I. Apparently he’s a powerful Christian lobbyist in the US who has now launched a boycott against supporters of Michael Sam. He feels that companies supporting Michael Sam’s right to love whomever he chooses are “trampling on Christian values.” The largest company that he is targeting in his boycott is none other than Visa, who I personally applaud for giving Michael Sam his first advertising contract. Jacky boy has riled up his coalition of evangelical Christian leaders all across the US, as well as many influential grassroots organizations, to boycott Visa as well as all St. Louis Rams games and team merchandise. He also wants everyone to sell any stocks they hold in the offending companies.
His message is simple, “Openly gay football players send a terrible message to our youth about morality. Somebody needs to step up because the moral fiber of the nation is eroding.” You tell ‘em Jacko! What a terrible message to send to our youth! Michael Sam worked hard throughout high school and received scholarship offers from Arizona State University, Colorado State University, University of Houston and the offer he accepted, from the University of Missouri (Mizzou). So far, not looking good Michael – you worked hard, got an education, and developed your sporting abilities to the level of major recognition from 4 top universities. Tisk Tisk
Michael’s stellar football career blossomed at Mizzou where he was named a first-team All-American (hear that Suzie, he’s All-American) by the Walter Camp Football Foundation, Associated Press, Sporting News, the American Football Coaches Association, and the Football Writers Association of America. He was on track to be a first round draft pick as he was obviously well qualified in the sport of football.
On February 9, 2014 Michael publicly announced that he was gay in an interview with Chris Connelly on ESPN, becoming one of the first publicly out college football players. He made this announcement before the draft picks were made. I’m sure he knew what to expect and was advised profusely to keep his sexuality quiet. That would have been the ‘safe’ move for sure because it was obvious that there were a lot of teams interested in his football playing abilities. After all, that is what they should primarily base their draft picks on, isn’t it? Revealing his sexuality, which he did on his own terms by the way, not because he was forced to in response to speculation or someone ‘outing’ him, would surely affect his draft prospects. Still, he was no stranger to adversity and he knew that who he was and how he became the man he is today, was not something that came from shying away from adversity or being afraid of what people might think. He felt it was more important to stand for who he was, rather than pretend to be who others wanted him to be.
Where are we so far on the morality index and messages sent to our youth? Hard work, discipline, education, facing fears, overcoming adversity, being true to one’s self, standing up for your values, yup, it’s looking like a pretty good message so far. One that, in my opinion, the youth of today’s generation should be listening to a hell of a lot more than what Jack Burkman has to say.
With only 8 more picks left on the 3rd and final day of the NFL draft, the call finally came in to Michael Sam from the St. Louis Rams to join their roster. All that doubt he faced by his critics, all of that pressure and stress he felt waiting round after round without a draft phone call, it all bubbled up to an emotional release that had Michael shedding tears as he spoke with the Rams. After the call, he kissed his partner who was standing by his side the entire time. That kiss, televised on ESPN is what has the skivvies of all these ‘righteous’ people in a bunch? Really? Come on people, really?
Not surprisingly, there was a flurry of reaction following the draft pick and the kiss. A lot of it was really positive and focussed on what a great achievement this was for Michael Sam as a football player. There were shout-outs from LGBTQ activists and alliances commending Michael for expressing his joy in a way that felt honest and true to who he was. And of course, there were negative comments too. I quite enjoyed how the SB Nation website showed us some of those negative tweets. They captioned images of heterosexual NFL players kissing their wives and girlfriends with the tweets made about Michael Sam kissing his partner. Well done SB Nation, well done.
There’s no doubt that this debate over what is moral and appropriate and righteous will continue. Listen, I’m all for sharing opinions and saying what you truly feel – just as long as the double standards are checked at the door. Don’t go around saying that same sex relationships are wrong when you go around preaching hate and intolerance. As a wise person once told me, when you point the finger at someone else, you’ve got 3 fingers pointing back at you (don’t believe me, try it out – point your index finger and see what your middle, ring and pinky fingers are doing).