A day later, I’m still trying to figure why persons that had no issue with Ricky Williams marrying Mike Ditka on the cover of a national magazine were so incensed at Michael Sam & boyfriend simply embracing on television ; to hear the Yonkers Cowboy’s version of events, you’d think his children had been abducted and forced to watch an entire Gas Rag set.
On the more reasoned tip, The Nation’s Dave Zirin, openly acknowledging Sam’s underwhelming combine performance, argues the former Mizzou DE’s draft stock took a hit for entirely non-football reasons (“it’s about a systemic problem in an NFL that loathes independent thinkers, fears political controversy, and hates ‘distractions’…the NFL’s homophobia is in an institution that equates being gay with being ‘controversial’, or ‘political’).
As sportswriter Howard Bryant said, Michael Sam is threatening to the institutional biases that exist in the league precisely because he was brave enough to try and control his own narrative. For a league built on idealized notions of machismo and toughness, for a league that speaks in military jargon like they would’ve been the first one to storm the beaches of Normandy if given half the chance, they were a profile in cowardice this weekend. They were scared. It’s the same fear that you see when Goodell announces that they want to police and punish players for saying n____, but are scared to do anything but continue to promote a racial slur as the name of one of its teams. It’s the same fear you see when they aggressively promote tackle football for kids—with ads particularly aimed at moms—during the Super Bowl while their own data comes in at a taxi-cab meter pace about how playing tackle can cause permanent brain injury in children. It’s the same fear you see when they suspend one of their best players for smoking weed. What NFL bosses want, need and crave above all else, is control. Michael Sam represented a loss of that control because he dared—I will say it again—to try and control his own narrative. That is the NFL’s problem, not Michael Sam’s.