Michael Sam’s A Ram: Is It A Brand New Day For Gays Who Wanna Play (Football)?

Michael Sam, former University of Missouri defensive lineman and last year’s All-American and SEC Defensive Player of the Year, became the first openly gay athlete to get drafted into the NFL on Saturday. ESPN captured Sam’s joyous reaction to being the 249th pick in the seventh round by the St. Louis Rams. As you all saw on your social media feeds, Sam celebrated by embracing and kissing his boyfriend, Vito Cammisano.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nW-_fFdkegs

Sam’s genuine emotional reaction became an unprecedented move by an NFL player. In a sport where hyper-masculinity and anti-gay rhetoric is so entrenched in its culture, this romantic man-on-man kiss — that was broadcasted by the sports channel — was without a doubt, a historic moment for football.

This past February, Sam came out publicly to media outlets, and told ESPN, “I am an openly, proud gay man,” echoing what he told his accepting team and coaches last August. In the 2013 season, he led the SEC, considered to be the toughest college football conference in the nation, in sacks with 11.5. Mizzou went on to have a 12-2 season and played in the Cotton Bowl.

With a stellar college football career like Sam’s, he was predicted to be a mid-round pick but ultimately fell lower in the draft than expected, a situation which Sam himself has side-eyed. “From last season alone, I should’ve been in the first three rounds,”  he told The Associated Press. “I knew I was going to get picked somewhere. Every team that passed me, I was thinking how I’m going to sack their quarterback.”

Without a doubt though, this seventh round pick was all America could talk about. A little more than half an hour after Sam was drafted, there were already 110,000 tweets about him, including supportive responses from his teammates.

Even Obama congratulated him. “The President congratulates Michael Sam, the Rams and the NFL for taking an important step forward today in our Nation’s journey. From the playing field to the corporate boardroom, LGBT Americans prove everyday that you should be judged by what you do and not who you are,” a White House official told ABC News.

In a perfect world there would only be supportive tweets for the first openly gay NFL player, but of course we don’t live there. There was definitely backlash over ESPN airing the Sam-Cammisano kiss from athletes, including former Super Bowl Champion Derrick Ward and former NBA player Marshall Henderson.

Their main argument being: what about the children?! (You tell those kids that people in this world can love whoever the fuck they want!)

Shortly after Sam was picked, Miami Dolphins safety Don Jones tweeted out a homophobic “OMG” and “Horrible.” What happens next was shocking: The Dolphins swiftly took action and fined Jones for his negative tweets and will also need to complete educational training before resuming activities with the team. “We were disappointed to read Don’s tweets,” coach Joe Philbin said in a statement. “They were inappropriate and unacceptable, and we regret the negative impact these comments had on such an important weekend for the NFL. We met with Don today about respect, discrimination and judgment. These comments are not consistent with the values and standards of our program.” Slow clap. This is the kind of attitude that the NFL and really any organization needs to tackle homophobic, transphobic, sexist, racist comments head on.

Enough with the haters. Let’s go back to Sam and his boyfriend, because come on, honestly, no one can deny how cute these two are together. Buzzfeed unearthed Cammisano’s identity and all his super adorable Instagram couple photos.

Running six miles isn't so bad when this is the finish line @mikeysam52

He graduated from Mizzou and was an out gay athlete on their swim team.

Best day of my life. Day trip to Santa Barbra @mikeysam52

It’s not guaranteed Sam will be a starting player when football season rolls around. Late-round draft picks, especially rookies, aren’t usually guaranteed a place on the roster. If Sam doesn’t perform well in training and at preseason games then he’ll be cut.

Regardless if Sam plays or not, he has set a precedent for future gay football players and athletes. He unabashedly kissed his boyfriend on a major sports channel and got overwhelming support from the country. According to the NFL, Sam’s St. Louis Ram’s jersey is the second best selling rookie jersey so far. This is a powerful message that is vital to improving football’s homophobic history.

Yvonne S. Marquez is a lesbian journalist and former Autostraddle senior editor living in Dallas, TX. She writes about social justice, politics, activism and other things dear to her queer Latina heart. Yvonne was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter. Read more of her work at yvonnesmarquez.com.

Yvonne has written 205 articles for us.

13 Comments

  1. what about the children?! (You tell those kids that people in this world can love whoever the fuck they want!

    THIS.

    I’m happy he got drafted!! Hope he does well in the pre-season and training because I look forward to watching him in the coming NFL season. I can’t believe the amount of hate the kiss got though. I bet you guys if it was lesbians, people would be like “replay that shit”

  2. I love watching professional sports, despite their many flaws, and I was floored when ESPN actually showed a gay, interracial kiss during prime-time draft coverage. This is huge. A lot of my well-meaning straight friends have been saying things like “who cares?” or “why is this news?”. I’m confident that we’ll progress to a place where it isn’t news, but right now it’s a big deal.

    I hope that Michael Sam works his ass off and makes the team. And I also hope that in a couple of years it wont be necessary for a college player to have to give a big coming out interview and can just turn up at draft day with his boyfriend and give him a quick peck on the lips as his name is called. It’s going to happen, I can feel it. 🙂

  3. Apparently Michael Sam’s jersey is already the No. 2 seller among rookies, which makes me SUPER HAPPY. I feel like that’s a pretty huge indicator that fans are proud of him & eager to embrace him as a part of the NFL!

    Also, it’s great to see the Dolphins responding so harshly, especially considering how horrible their locker room culture apparently was/is (see: Richie Incognito). It’s all giving me hope!

  4. St. Louis is my hometown, and I felt so proud of my city when I heard that Michael Sam was drafted by the Rams! (Interesting fact: The Rams also made history in Los Angeles in 1946 when they became the first NFL team in the country to draft a black player.)

    But thrilled doesn’t begin to describe my reaction to this wonderful news! I mean, I was really happy…

  5. Sometimes people have to be dragged into the light kicking and screaming. I was shocked and happy ESPN actually showed the kiss and that the NFL fined that homophobic player for his comments on Twitter. People need to see that their are consequences for that sort of intolerant behavior in order for them to learn their lesson.

  6. “I knew I was going to get picked somewhere. Every team that passed me, I was thinking how I’m going to sack their quarterback.”

    GET IT. I’ve been really impressed with his composure. I know he didn’t perform as well at the NFL Combine as was expected, but I’m hoping now that without the uncertainty of the draft hanging over his head that he’ll start kicking some ass.

    I usually root for the Cowboys, because I’m a masochist, but it’ll be fun to have another team to cheer for. Here’s hoping he makes it through to regular season!

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