Sexual orientation unrelated to athleticism

If there is one factor evident of sports today, it is that the culture of sports is changing. Jason Collins paved the way as the first openly gay basketball player to play in the NBA. Now, Michael Sam is on track to be the first openly gay football player to play in the NFL. However, homophobia is still a main pillar of sports culture today.

The NFL is beginning to realize the changing climate as it was anticipating to make plans to move Super Bowl XLIX from Arizona had the bill SB 1062 been passed. This law would have allowed businesses to deny service to gay and lesbian people if they acted upon religious views.

“I think, at this point, you’re seeing doors opening in a number of areas in our national life across the board, so I think that this is just one more step,” said Russell Stockard, a California Lutheran University professor with a doctorate in communication.

Although the NFL is making moves supporting the rights of all humans, gay or straight, the issue still looming is how a gay player would be treated in a locker room.

If Sam gets picked up by an NFL team, he would need to prove himself on the field in order to get respect from his teammates, just like any other player.

In fact, Sam’s sexual orientation should not even be a judging factor in his character, but it is inevitable that he will be subjected to jokes made by both teammates and opponents.

One upsetting aspect is that some are saying that he came out just for marketing reasons and to make a name for himself. Coming out is a life changing and extremely difficult decision to make and for some people to say this is very unsettling.

“You will always have people who are going to look at every single thing and look at it in a very calculated way…and I think that [Sam] is too much of a straight-forward person to do something like that. I don’t believe that he is that cynical,” said Stockard, who also teaches a sports marketing class.

Sam is a brave individual for making his sexual orientation public, but even the toughest man can be brought down by constant bullying and harassment. It will be interesting to see if something similar to the scandal with the Miami Dolphins, involving the harassment of players in the locker room, will happen with whatever locker room Sam is a part of.

Sam will change sports culture. He will make other athletes realize that while they have been making homophobic remarks throughout their life, gay people do deserve the right to play on the same field and go out to battle with them. If Sam has his teammates’ backs, they will have his.

“He will absolutely change sports culture just because he is the first one to [come out]. I think the way he will change it is if there actually are other homosexual players, it will encourage them to stay true to their beliefs and to what their orientation is as well,” said senior Nicho DellaValle, who is the co-host of “The Hot Corner,” a sports based radio show on iCLU Radio.

“Any professional athlete that is unethical about what they do is one thing, but if they’re coming in and going to be a professional in their sport and be a talent in their sport, there shouldn’t be any ramifications,” said Dan Kuntz, California Lutheran University athletic director.

Just like with Jackie Robinson and other African-American baseball players during the Civil Rights Era, Sam will face adversity from teammates, opponents and fans alike, but as time goes on and he makes a name for himself, the hate and harassment will subside.

“Maybe over time, this will be less and less of a news story, and more of a conversation, a dialogue, for people to come together to be more accepting. Hopefully, that’s what it is,” Kuntz said.

 

Ramsey Abushahla
Staff Writer
Published March 5, 2014