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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Why is Michael Sam brave?

Since he was small child Michael Sam has been putting his hands in the dark dirt of Texas and the red clays of Missouri then exploding across the line of scrimmage tearing through opposing offensive lines and destroying their game plan with incredible defense plays born out of his inner tenacity and ferocity. Now he plans to destroy something else: bigotry, stereotypes and ostracism.

Michael is currently a student in the University of Missouri. He's been a star player on their football team earning co-defensive player of the year in the mighty SEC conference. He plans to enter the NFL draft this spring and be selected by a team to play as a pro. He also plans to do this while openly gay and would thus be the first player to do so in any of the major sporting leagues.

Should it matter that Michael is gay? In an ideal world, no. But we don't live in that ideal world. We live in this world where all over the globe the fight for LGBT acceptance is ongoing and far from over. While much progress has been made in some societies we've seen that the forces of intolerance are still well entrenched and fighting back in Russia, India and sub Saharan Africa. In this real and imperfect world gay teens are living with self hate, isolation and depression. Far too often they succumb to those negative emotions and thus we have the elevated suicide rate for LGBT teens.

A role model like Michael Sam is exactly what they need. It is another barrier broken down.

Sure there will be those that will condemn this. There will be those that urge the NFL to turn their back on him. Some teams will turn their back on him and refuse to draft him just as surely as there still is that underpinning of hatred and fear in even the more progressive societies. But not every team will pass on him. He's too good a prospect with too much experience playing at an elite level in the hardest of all the college football conferences for no team to draft him. But it is a risk and one that Michael is apparently willing to take.

Michael Sam might be an imposing 6'1" and 250 pounds of muscle but that isn't what makes him brave. He is brave for knowing that he had the opportunity to fight for the right to openly be who he really is and endure the consequences bad or good.

In that ideal world there would only be the good consequences for Michael being open about who he is. Let us hope that we get there one day with his help.

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