In a YouTube video from 2008, The Lonely Island parodies society's obsession with sports and ideas of manliness . They drone, "if my team loses I'll be mean all night / If you tell me to relax we'll get in a fight."
When major sports-related news happens, especially in football, people tend to tune it out as arbitrary entertainment in a selfish and violent industry concerned only with money, not societal good.
While our big orange idol Peyton Manning was setting record after record in the National Football League this season, his accomplishments nonetheless could be placed into the puzzle-piece narrative of how the media ignores "actual news."
This is completely to ignore that sports themselves have been modi operandi of progressive social change in the past. Jackie Robinson took his first at-bat in Major League Baseball 17 years before President Lyndon B. Johnson passed the National Civil Rights Act. In 1968, Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised a "black power salute" to protest mistreatment of African-Americans in the U.S.
So this week, when senior University of Missouri defensive lineman and Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year Michael Sam identified himself publicly as LGBT, it should be unsurprising that the imperialist ESPN launched into a discussion about whether or not Michael Sam would be "embraced" in a locker room.
ESPN doesn't have a very good track record at addressing LGBT athletes. When longtime NBA player Jason Collins came out as LGBT last year, the network brought on reporter Chris Broussard so he could denounce LGBT people as rebellious sinners.
They followed this up by giving longtime NFL coach Herm Edwards air time to suggest that someone who is LGBT is inherently bringing baggage to an NFL locker room.
Not only is this shortsighted and immature of Edwards, it is irresponsible of ESPN to reinforce this narrative when players who kill dogs, are convicted of manslaughter, are accused of rape, or yell racial slurs at a concert are apparently acceptable football players who bring positive attributes to a team.
It is no secret that there is prevalent homophobia surrounding professional sports. These competitions are seen as the manliest of activities, where strong, heterosexual men compete for their family, themselves and their team. In fact, it seems that homophobia in sports tends to be more on the part of fans, like those parodied by The Lonely Island than by actual professional athletes in locker rooms.
Actually, it seems from current NFL players that they don't care about a teammate's sexuality, race, or interests. They care whether or not their teammate is helping their team achieve their goals. This while ESPN reports that "anonymous team sources" would find an out LGBT player a "distraction." Former Vols wide receiver Dante' Stallworth, in a series of tweets, seemed to indicate the "distraction" that this LGBT player would bring was complete bogus.
Michael Sam's bravery in coming out is important not only to professional sports but to universal notions of sexuality. It may be shocking to some homophobic narcissists out there, but people whose sexuality is not rigidly hetero actually did not choose those sexualities. Further still, gay men are not predisposed to sexually assault straight men, and how this record is circulated is a disgusting result of story-crafters like ESPN.
Instead of focusing the discussion on whether the NFL – or generally major American professional sports are ready to accept an LGBT teammate – we should turn that focus on whether we ourselves are able to shed blinding prejudice to accept people for who they were born to be.
If you're "not comfortable," with the idea of an out LGBT NFL player, I feel sorry for your bigoted self. Some people are gay, and if you don't like it, you're going to have a tough century.
Wade Scofield is a senior in religious studies and Latin. He can be reached at email@example.com.