I wrote here about the selection by the St. Louis Rams of Michael Sam, an openly gay football player. The selection brought widespread praise including, predictably enough, from President Obama.
But at least one football player, Don Jones of the Miami Dolphins, reacted negatively — probably not to the selection itself, but rather to the exuberant kisses on the lips that Sam exchanged with his boyfriend while the cameras were rolling.
Jones tweeted “OMG” and “horrible.” For this expression of opinion, Jones has been duly punished. The Dolphins have denounced and fined him, and have barred him from team activities until he attends and completes “educational training.” Jones has issued an abject apology.
The Dolphins, of course, are still trying to overcome the adverse publicity generated by the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin “bullying” affair. But I suspect they would have come down hard on Jones regardless. The NFL — a thoroughly authoritarian operation that hardly allows players to celebrate touchdowns — is determined to crush any public expression of disapproval relating to Sam by anyone associated with the league.
Doing so will help the NFL’s image with the PC crowd and the gay community. Whether it will help Sam is another matter.
Jones probably isn’t the only NFL player who considered Sam’s very public wet kiss “horrible.” And more than a few players probably will resent seeing a fellow player silenced and shamed for expressing a sentiment they share or at least understand. That resentment might well manifest itself in resentment of Sam beyond the probably slight amount he would have experienced due to his sexual orientation.
Not much is sacred in a sports locker room or on the field. Attempts by the NFL to make Michael Sam a sacred cow may prove counterproductive.
Sam himself says he wants to be treated like a football player, not a gay football player. Football players are teased constantly for whatever it is they plausibly can be teased about. No speech code protects them. This is especially true of rookies.
If Sam, who is entirely unproven as an NFL player, gets his own special speech code, he’s likely to lose respect. But again, the NFL isn’t much concerned about helping Sam; it’s trying to ingratiate itself with outside pressure groups in order to protect its “brand.”
Sam may not have helped himself when he declared that he should have been selected no later than the third round of the draft, not late in the seventh round. As I said in my earlier post, there’s a case that Sam should have gone higher than he did. But show me a modern pass-rush specialist of Sam’s size who was taken as high as the third round with “measurables” (40 yard dash time etc.) as mediocre as Sam’s. I don’t think there is one.
It’s normal for players selected late to believe they should have been selected earlier. But Sam implied that he was discriminated against for being gay. He reportedly said that teams chickened out on selecting him. This makes him sound like a whiner.
Hot Air wonders what will happen if the Rams cut Michael Sam, not an uncommon fate for a player selected so late in the draft. The question answers itself: the Rams will be lambasted as “homophobic” and the NFL will suffer a black eye.
For this reason, expect the Rams (perhaps under pressure from the NFL) to find a place on the roster (or at least the practice squad) for Sam even if they don’t believe he deserves it. (My guess is that Sam will be good enough to earn his place, but I’m no football scout).
The prospect of having to deal with criticism for cutting a gay player may provide an incentive for teams not to draft openly gay players of marginal NFL ability. In this sense too, Sam-mania may prove counterproductive.
JOHN adds: It is often said that the essence of modern, politically-correct liberalism is that everyone has a right not to be offended. This is entirely wrong. Some offenses are proscribed, others not. This story illustrates the point well: Don Jones was offended by the sight of a gay kiss on television, and said so. For this, he will be subjected to re-education. No one cares about his feelings. On the other hand–to cite just one recent example–those who were offended by Donald Sterling’s rambling exchanges with his mistress had no similar need to keep silent. Their denunciations have been universally encouraged. Offense is a flexible concept: it may indicate a need for re-education, or it may be a civil rights milestone.
There is this difference, too: Sterling engaged in a personal conversation that he did not intend to be made public. Were his comments offensive? Sure. Mostly, they were weird. But Sterling never meant to shove them into anyone’s face. Contrast this with the Sam kiss: why were television cameras present to record it in the first place? Did ESPN televise the reactions of any other 7th round draft choices? I don’t think so. The cameras were waiting for Sam to get the call only because he is gay, and the television networks want to promote the cause of homosexual equivalence. Is it unreasonable to infer that the kiss was televised precisely so that some individuals like Jones would take offense, and then be made into a lesson for the rest of us?
In any event, the Sam/Jones story is a useful reminder that liberalism has nothing to do with protecting people from being offended.