The sports world reacted to the news of former Missouri Tigers defensive end Michael Sam coming out as a proud gay man on Sunday evening, but the reactions from anonymous NFL execs painted a disturbing and disappointing picture that his announcement is going to have a negative impact on his draft stock.
An NFL player personnel assistant told SI.com, “I don’t think football is ready for (an openly gay player) just yet. In the coming decade or two, it’s going to be acceptable, but at this point in time it’s still a man’s-man game. To call somebody a (gay slur) is still so commonplace. It’d chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room.”
An outpouring of current and former players, coaches and front office personnel have lend their support to Sam to suggest that the NFL is more ready for a gay player than these archaic execs would suggest, and Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports writes that Major League Baseball is ready for a gay baseball player.
Here is a collection of what some MLB executives had to say about a gay player in MLB:
Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein said, “If the reports about his football ability and character are accurate, we would sign the baseball Michael Sam in a second and be a better organization for it.”
Mark Shapiro, Cleveland Indians president: “Sexual orientation has not and never would be an area of consideration, and it certainly would not prevent us from acquiring a player we felt could help the team be in a better position to win a championship.”
Frank Coonelly, Pittsburgh Pirates president: “I cannot imagine that a baseball player’s sexual orientation would affect where he would be drafted in the baseball draft. Of course, I cannot speak for others, but I know for certain that the Pirates would make our draft decision based solely on whether we believed that the man could play.”
Derrick Hall, Arizona Diamondbacks president: “The Diamondbacks do not tolerate any form of discrimination and take pride in being an inclusive and accepting organization.”
St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak, “Overall, I feel in society and specifically in professional sports, you are seeing more tolerance to different issues. The sporting world is built on performance and talent, and that typically drives decisions.”
Texas Rangers GM Jon Daniels said. “We’ve welcomed people with all sorts of backgrounds in the past, with most having success here. “If the guy is a good teammate and can help us win, I don’t see why this would be any different.”
White Sox President Ken Williams asked, “Are you, as a leader of your organization, prepared to provide the young man the public and private support he will need along with controlling, to the extent you can, what the behavior is in the clubhouse/locker room?”
“If the answer is yes, then you have an opportunity to use what some see as a distraction and use it as an individual and team character-building opportunity along the lines of what Branch Rickey did for Jackie Robinson.
“If the answer is no, then it is unfair to select him because like it or not, this will be a daily media/fan event and will need to be managed to keep everyone’s focus on the job at hand.”
The courage it took Sam to come out as a proud gay man on ESPN last night could be a template that a current major league or minor league player needed to see before coming out on his own.
Statistically speaking, and baseball is all about stats, we’ve already had numerous gay players but perhaps now one will have the power to come forward knowing there are a number of MLB execs who are more than ready to welcome a gay baseball player.