The NFL’s St. Louis Rams must be quaking in its boots after drafting Mizzou defensive end Michael Sam, where he was consensus All-American and the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Defensive Player of the Year as a senior. And no, not because, as Andy Kerman quipped in a tweet. “A man with TWO first names?”
This is a big deal. The White House demonstrated an awareness of this when it released a congratulatory statement:
The President congratulates Michael Sam, the Rams and the NFL for taking an important step forward today in our Nation’s journey. From the playing field to the corporate boardroom, LGBT Americans prove everyday that you should be judged by what you do and not who you are.
Sam was selected in the 7th round of the NFL draft on Saturday by the St. Louis Rams, and this was a historic milestone in NFL history. He is the NFL’s first openly gay player, and that makes bigots very angry. “What right does somebody have to be gay?” they thunder as brains sizzle and pop. “And on my TV!” Why, their rights are being trampled, by God! To make matters worse, Sam kissed his boyfriend when he found out he’d been drafted, not a girlfriend!
And the NFL can’t say it was not warned.
The Christian Post reported on the day the draft started that,
Jack Burkman, head of the Washington, D.C. lobbying firm J.M. Burkman & Assoc. who is seeking to ban gays from the NFL, says he intends to build a national coalition to boycott any football franchise that picks openly gay football player Michael Sam in the NFL Draft, which starts Thursday at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
“The NFL, like most of the rest of American business, is about to learn that when you trample the Christian community and Christian values there will be a terrible financial price to pay,” said Burkman.
Boycott a football team, the most popular and lucrative sport in America. Good luck with that.
And trample the Christian community. Really? Does Burkman really believe that his heretical friends have more rights than Michael Sam? More rights than an NFL team? More rights than the rest of the fan base?
All these bigots have to do is turn the channel. I know, as George Carlin said, these folks aren’t good with knobs, but c’mon.
In a release issued Thursday, Burkman said he would “leverage his political clout” to ensure that the franchise that selects the 6-foot-2, 260-pound defensive end from Missouri would get “roughed up financially.”
We shall exercise our First Amendment rights and shall not stop until the drafting NFL franchise cannot sell a single ticket, jersey or autographed football. In short, we shall be relentless.
Burkman claims in the release that he is currently mobilizing “powerful grassroots organizations in 27 of the 50 states,” as well as a “coalition of Evangelical Christian leaders from across the nation to take part in a protest if Sam is drafted.”
To their credit, Rams head coach Jeff Fischer and the Rams organization looked beyond all the hoopla and selected Sam purely on his athletic abilities and football IQ. Sam was one of college football’s premier pass rushers, and it makes perfect sense to draft him in that role. Fischer said of Sam, “He’s all about football.”
And in the world of the NFL, that’s all any team needs to know about a player.
Nobody’s rights have been trampled here, though that would have changed had these bigots compelled the Rams to ignore Sam out of fear of the repercussions. The Religious Right makes a great deal of noise about free speech, but they think only they have that right. They also whine a lot about religious freedom, but again, they think that right belongs only to them. The rights of others do not, for some reason, enter into the discussion.
In the world of religious bigotry, that’s all any homophobe needs to know about a man.
For his part, Sam has to prove he belongs in an NFL locker room and that will be determined not by whom he kisses but by how he performs on the field, as President Obama said, and as it should be.
Meanwhile, Burkman will remain “one of those idiots,” in the words of Michael Sam, “who say stupid things.”