Michael Sam is a name you know well.
He’s the first openly gay NFL player and is seen by many as a trailblazer for LGBT youth throughout the country. The media has been fascinated with Sam and often fixates on his sexuality. Whether it be through the coverage on his celebratory kiss seen ‘round the world or the argument that his sexuality is a distraction for teammates, Michael Sam continues, for better or for worse, to be seen primarily as a gay athlete rather than just an athlete.
ESPN, the self-proclaimed world leader in sports, has continued on the bandwagon of questionable and downright discriminatory reporting and sunk to a new low today. Sports Center reported on how Sam was fitting in with his new teammates and instead focused almost exclusively on Sam’s showering habits in the locker room.
It seems that even in 2014 a gay man can’t shower — let alone be in the same locker room as — straight men.
Josina Anderson, an anchor with Sports Center, reported:
Another Rams defensive player told me that “Sam is respecting our space” and that, from his perspective, he seems to think that Michael Sam is waiting to kind of take a shower, as not to make his teammates feel uncomfortable.
ESPN has chosen not to release the name of Sam’s teammate — perhaps to protect his identity as a bigot and narcissist. Such a statement, and the air time that the clip received, indicates a larger problem that LGBT individuals face whether it be in the locker room, the classroom, or the boardroom — overt and covert discrimination.
The NFL has publicly stated their support for Sam and a belief that “any player with ability and determination can succeed in the N.F.L.” At face value such a statement appears true — Sam was drafted and we will soon see whether he makes the team and hopefully his sexuality will have no bearing on the coaches final consideration.
To ESPN, I have this question: Why haven’t you reported on the showering habits of other players? Why haven’t you told me what hair product Tom Brady uses Where’s the 90 second clip detailing where Wes Welker decides to puts his deodorant on in the locker room? Is it because such questions aren’t newsworthy?
Michael Sam’s sexuality does not set him apart in the locker room. He sweats like every other player, gets covered in mud and grass stains with the rest of his team, and — shocker — showers just like every other player. For all of you with lingering fears, Scott Cooper’s reveals what showering with teammates is really like.
Through their broadcast of this segment, ESPN is calling attention and supporting the notion that gay men are hypersexual creatures that can’t possibly be around straight men without jumping their bones. Such a belief and position is not only offensive but also helps to perpetuate the idea that straight men are inherently the object of romantic or sexual advances from gay men and as such should be separated from their straight colleagues. Although such logic is just short of the gay panic defense, it is easy to draw comparisons between the two.
Michael Sam should be reported on. He is the first openly gay athlete to play in the NFL. He’s in an interracial relationship and has forced us to once again to discuss what being in an interracial relationship means in America. He has made meaningful impacts on the lives of youth and serves as an inspiration to gay athletes seeking to break the rainbow ceiling. He’s a public figure and if he isn’t in the news then his agent isn’t doing their job properly.
When or with whom on the team he chooses to occupy the shower at the same time with in the locker room should not be a newsworthy subject. Equating a gay male’s showering pattern with his how successful he is at integrating on to his team is reprehensible. After all, how he showers (just like who he’s attracted to) has no bearing on his ability to play football. And whether or not he makes a bigot comfortable shouldn’t be his main priority. He’s got a job to do, and a sport to play.