As news that Michael Sam had been drafted by the St. Louis Rams ricochetted around the Internet Saturday night, commentators had mixed feelings about what the first openly gay NFL player might mean. Would the league’s notoriously macho and homophobic culture change? Would the emotional video of Sam hugging and kissing his boyfriend after his selection soften attitudes — or lead to more backlashes like Don Jones’s derogatory tweet? Would Sam have been chosen earlier in the draft if he hadn’t come out in February?
We sampled commentary from around the web. Have your own take? Tweet your reply to @GlobeOpinion with the hashtag #opextra.
His talent isn’t the issue
This is not about what kinds of prejudice lurks in the hearts of individual executives. It’s about a systemic problem in an NFL that loathes independent thinkers, fears political controversy and hates “distractions.” The NFL’s homophobia is in an institution that equates being gay with being “controversial” or “political,” not realizing that this is their problem, not Michael Sam’s. This is the league imbibing and regurgitating the same backward logic that keeps people in the closet, scared to tell their family and friends who they are and doing horrible damage to themselves and the people close to them. This is why we can talk until the cows come home about whether Michael Sam is a “tweener” as a player, his poor combine and all the rest of it but it doesn’t get at the root of the issue.
Dave Zirin, @EdgeofSports
He is a game-changer
I never thought I’d see the day. A black linebacker kissed his white boyfriend on national TV after being drafted into the NFL. If Michael Sam never plays a down of pro football, he will still go down as one of the most important athletes in history.
Michael Sam gave us one of the more significant moments in American sports history on Saturday night. It would have been enough of an earthquake to see Sam become the first openly gay player to be drafted into the NFL, but by kissing his boyfriend on national television, in an embrace that will be replayed constantly over the coming days and weeks, Sam took a whack at an even bigger barrier to acceptance.
Eric Adelson, @eric_adelson
Move along, nothing to see here
The most important part of this moment is that it’s over. ESPN is not going to send a camera crew to the next gay draft prospect’s house. The NFL-watching world will not gasp in astonishment the next time a player is affectionate with a man. These are just things that happen now, and not breathless news stories.
Ty Schalter, @tyschalter
An act of courage? Or playing the game
Days before the draft, ESPN announced that Sam would be this year’s recipient of the “Espys Arthur Ashe Courage” award. According to ESPN, the award is given to athletes who reflect the spirit of Ashe’s fight for equality and social justice and his courageous battle against AIDS. I took calls on my show asking listeners whether Sam deserved the honor. After all, how courageous was it to come out? He knew he’d be treated as a rock star by the media and he has been.
Jerry Bader, @Jerrybadershow
Give the Rams some more credit
It’s easy for a person on Twitter to declare that Sam has shattered a glass ceiling with his homosexuality and that he is the first openly gay athlete to be drafted by a major sports team; they can stand on their soapbox and, in 140 characters, give their meaningless nod of approval as a means of curing social ills. Understanding the team dynamic and the amount of continuity that must be present for a football team to function effectively makes the Sam announcement relevant to the Rams’ fortunes. They wouldn’t cut him because he’s gay just like they didn’t draft him because he’s gay. They absolutely would cut him if his contribution doesn’t warrant the attention he receives because he’s gay and if it’s negatively affecting the rest of the team as they try to do their jobs.