By Chris Barnes
Michael Sam makes enormous history for the illustrious league known as the NFL by becoming the first openly gay male drafted to the league. Excuse me if I yawn. The NFL could care less about his sexual preference. Goodell to Sam: Show me the paper…the gold at the end of the LGBT rainbow! Let’s not get this twisted. The NFL prints money.
How do you treat the openly gay male at work? Have you thought about what he goes through on a daily basis? When he goes to the bathroom, do you silently question what restroom he should use? Do you pay unduly close attention to his vocal inflections and hand gestures?
I plead “guilty.” (In the past, but not now) Wrist: check! Adam’s apple: check! Every openly gay male suffers through those indignities every day. Fair: Hell, no! Reality: Don’t front!
I asked Brian Hartig — an openly gay male friend of mine — to give me a sense of the humiliations that he encounters in the work place. While a member of the Peace Corps in Bulgaria, his superiors urged not to reveal his sexual preference because Bulgaria did not take kindly to gay men teaching English to children. Upshot: Stay in the closet like the good old days in the United States Armed Forces…and the NFL. After relocating to NYC, he lives his life openly and receives little or no negative feedback on the basis of his sexual preference. (He does live in NYC though so… I’m just saying.)
Here’s my scenario:
Only a few picks remain in the final round of the media event called the NFL Draft: Live from Radio City Music Hall. The NFL czars stare at their gaudy Rolex watches and they see a golden opportunity disappearing into the foggy New York night.
The edict comes down from the NFL high command to Coach Jeff Fisher and General Manager Les Snead of the Rams: Draft Michael Sam aka NFL 2014 Money Magnet! “And with the 249th pick in the NFL draft, the Rams select…Michael Sam.” So let it be written, so let it be done. The NFL makes a boat load of cash from one of the final players selected.
Within moments, Michael Sam jerseys fly off website shelves. The Rams assign him #10, as in their tenth draft pick. Nobody out-markets the NFL and nobody acts more consistently from a standpoint of greed and of self-interest. Let’s look at the NFL’s splendid past.
In 1963, after JFK was assassinated and the world mourned, what organization was playing football two days later? The NFL! The reasoning was, “America needs a distraction”. No, the NFL wanted to be in your front, side, and back pocket! Get money!
What organization fought against compensation for head-trauma injuries suffered by their former players tooth and nail…even the ones who got paid next to nothing in return for the role that they played in building the greatest professional sports empire in history? The NFL! How ruthless is that?
What organization holds cities and franchises hostage when it comes to providing public funding for new stadiums? (This proud member of Steeler Nation knows what went down with the Heinz Stadium project.) The NFL. Top of the line or nothing at all with your tax dollars
NFL fans are slaves to NFL football. The league knows that, and they will capitalize on every opportunity to fatten the bottom line. I’m not going to stop watching NFL football (especially my beloved Steelers) for nobody. So any so-called obstacle is not an obstacle. I’m watching regardless, and most of you are in the same boat I am. Get the oars ready so we can navigate this river together! The NFL will get paid every day — and twice on Sunday — and drafting Mike Sam only opens up untapped revenue streams for the league.
I’m sure Roger Goodell and the NFL did some research and saw the amount of revenue that MLB and Branch Rickey took in when they tapped into the African-American market. Back then, Black folks listened to the games on the radio. When one of our very own took the field we came out in droves to show our support and adulation. It makes complete sense that openly gay athletes in the NFL will enable the league to tap into a whole new revenue stream. Start the presses!
At first only Black fans accepted Jackie Robinson. Over time his teammates gradually accepted him, in large part due to the courage of second baseman Pee Wee Reese. Will the same scenario play out with Michael Sam in 2014? Time will tell. With POTUS and FLOTUS — among many others — standing behind him, Mike should be okay.
The Rams “decision” — or mandate from the NFL high command — to draft Michael Sam did come with a bit of controversy. Don Jones, Defensive Back Coach of the Miami Incognitos, tweeted, “Horrible… and OMG”. Coach Jones: Go down to the local Shula Steak House, order yourself a nice Porterhouse or T-bone steak, a side of fava beans, a glass of nice Chianti, sit down, and shut the freak up! Take notice NFL coaches, owners, and players: You will pay a price for stupid comments.
I am a straight male, married to my lovely wife Jen, and we have two beautiful children, Alyssa and Danielle. So why do I care? Let me be brutally honest with you. Some people see a Black race, some people see a White race, and some see a gay race. As for me, the only race I see is the human race. Equality for the human race is paramount! “Liberty and justice for all.” (Sound familiar?)
Getting back to my friend Brian, he offered Mike Sam the following simple advice: Keep your personal life to yourself. Do not use the NFL as your personal launching pad…and stay true to yourself. Sounds like a plan, Sam.
My words of wisdom for Mike Sam: Get paid, my Black, gay brother! The league always does.