Here Come the 'Differentists'
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Michael Sam is screwed. Not in a literal sense, of course. This isn’t that kind of article.
So many questions surround whether or not he’ll be accepted in an NFL locker room (assuming he ever gets to see the inside of one without being part of some stadium tour group). And while many coaches, players and team executives say it isn’t and won’t be a problem, the simple truth is, yes, it will be problem.
Now don’t get me wrong – I firmly believe that Michael Sam should be judged solely on his ability to play football. Or to put it another way that will more accurately display my point, Michael Sam should be judged solely by the content of his character, not the
color of his skin behavior in his bedroom.
The point and the problem is that Michael Sam is different. That’s his only sin. And in our society, that’s all it takes when it comes to a group setting. See, when you gather a large group of people – say, about 60 -- in one setting -- say, a locker room – judgments are passed. Differences are scrutinized. So while a lot of people pay lip service to how Michael Sam will be accepted, the unfortunate reality is … he won’t.
How can this problem be solved? How can we make sure that our bigoted locker rooms don’t rear their ugly heads and tarnish the good and wholesome name of the NFL? Well, there are two ways. The first, of course, is to simply avoid introducing the problem. Hence, this is how and why Michael Sam is screwed. Because that’s the easy and most likely way.
But there is another way, another less popular way. Because to adopt the way I’m about to propose is to acknowledge that there are bigots and homophobes in the NFL. But they’re not bigots and homophobes (not necessarily). They’re different-phobes, different-ists, anti-contrarians.
So here’s the other way to combat the issue. Someone of power – head coach, general manager, owner, commissioner – needs to step in and say that 'different-ism' will not be tolerated.
“Wait a second, Commissioner. Does that mean that what you’re saying is that there are players who would have a problem with Michael Sam in their locker room?”
And I’m afraid that the Commissioner/whomever would have to say, “Yes. But the expression of that problem – in any fashion – will not be tolerated.”
It’s a little Machiavellian, but this is
1954 2014 we’re talking about here! And sometimes, some people need their intolerance shoved back down their throats. But to try to sweep the issue under the rug like it doesn’t exist runs counter to human nature.
And I think the NFL learned that lesson in Miami.