Here at Escort Scotland, we have always been a big supporter of gay rights. That is why we were pleased to see Michael Sam get drafted into the NFL (American Football) as the first openly gay player in the history of the game.
Firstly, before I go any further, let me explain what the draft is. It is where the best college players get picked by the professional teams. Sam got picked by the St Louis Rams in the seventh round (249th pick) to scenes of great joy between him and his boyfriend.
However, instead of talking about his new career, Sam is at the centre of a homophobia storm, after former Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy said he wouldn’t have drafted Sam, because he would have been a ‘distraction’.
Well, Twitter is now up in arms about these comments. People are drawing a comparison between the strides black people have made in the sport (Dungy himself is black) and the importance of giving gay people a chance (something that people are claiming Dungy is unwilling to do)
People are saying that black people were once seen as a distraction, but people made an effort, and people like Dungy got his chance.
There are widespread calls for Dungy to be sacked from his commentating job. His comments have now made him public enemy number one.
He has come out today with a statement on the issue. Here is an extract.
“I was asked whether I would have drafted Michael Sam and I answered that I would not have drafted him. I gave my honest answer, which is that I felt drafting him would bring much distraction to the team. At the time of my interview, the Oprah Winfrey reality show that was going to chronicle Michael’s first season had been announced.”
The full statement is much longer, and goes on to say people should be judged on merit, not their sexual orientation.
In simple terms, Sam is a low ranking pick. Low ranking picks don’t play very often, if at all in their first year.
A Media Circus
For Dungy, the hullabaloo regarding Sam ( a reality TV show?) would lead to millions of questions of when he is going to play. When he doesn’t play, that will be the story and the team will become a circus. If they get rid of him because he is rubbish, will they be accused of homophobia?
To be fair, he has a point. That reality show would have been the most boring show ever. There would have been hours of coverage of Sam sat on the bench doing nothing during games, and training in the week. I could even see the media pushing to give him game time he doesn’t deserve.
Dungy, at no point said that being gay is a distraction. I am sure Tony doesn’t think Michael Sam will be trying to molest Quarterback Sam Bradford in the showers. It is all the media attention that comes with Sam, who, let’s face it, is more likely to fail in the NFL than succeed.
It could even be argued that this controversy is actually proving Tony Dungy’s point.
I remember when the New England Patriots signed religious champion Tim Tebow.
Tim is a lovely man, who does so much for charity. Sadly for Tim he isn’t very good, certainly not good enough to be a regular starter. Still, due to his religious beliefs, he is one of the most popular men in the USA.
However, during his brief stay at New England, all the coach was ever asked was when he was going to play. The whole thing became a distraction, and he was released by the team.
There is a real similarity here I think. The only difference is that people are more scared to offend gay people than religious ones.
The Difference Between an Opinion and Hate
We need to be careful when we wave the bigotry stick around. Escort Scotland will always fight for the rights of equality everywhere, but it is morally wrong to accuse someone of something so offensive, when they are making a valid point. It may not be a point everyone agrees with, but it is not motivated by hate. There is a big difference.
We wish Michael Sam all the best in his career. Whether he is gay, straight, whatever; as soon as he puts the pads and helmet on, he is a football player.
Let’s hope the media remember that.