Dear Michael Sam,
I don’t follow American football—let alone college American football—with the great passion that many people do in my neighborhood or my country. But I do know enough about it to understand that, as a football player, your declaration of your sexual orientation will be met with a lot of passion by people. I fear that the passions many people will express will be thoughtless, heartless, and worse (if that’s possible). I am glad that you will have supporters.
I admire you for pre-emptively standing before all those people and saying, in effect, “Here I am.” I’m glad you took the initiative and got to tell your own story. It’s so smart to steer the ship instead of letting others grab the rudder. Well done!
When I was a sophomore in high school, I thought I would play football, as had my older brother. I fancied myself a receiver who could deliver the proper downfield block, deceive the defense, and catch passes—maybe a really good one once or twice a game. I began the season and practiced twice a day for about two weeks. Then I quit.
My fantasy of being an end or wide-out died quickly when my 15-year-old ideas ran into coaching that included a high ratio of insults to praise (“Lloyd, cut your hair. You look like [a girl | a fag | you can’t see])” and punishment (coaches had interior linemen who didn’t execute properly lower their pants and then they applied a handful of topical rubefacient heat rub to the players’ crotches). I decided that that sports culture was not for me.
Of couse, I expect you’ve survived much worse than the simple examples I cite here. You’ve risen to such a level of competence in your sport that your exploits position you to compete for stardom and wealth. Now you are taking a risk to own your own destiny. Admirable.
I’m sorry if your public disclosure costs you money. Of course, I hope it doesn’t. In fact, I hope you gain noteriety and endorsements because of your openness and honesty. I hope America has an epiphany. In my view, your willingness to come out at this time is All-American stuff that is even more important than your apparent, highly valued, American football skills.
I also hope that your self-disclosure has rapid and salutary effects in sports locker rooms around the world. Maybe it will be slow in locker rooms, as depicted in the Jackie Robinson movie. It may be that the changes will come more quickly there than in the general public, but acceptance will come.
And you, sir, have helped to accelerate it. In your honor I’m making an additional dontation to http://pflag.org/.