Barbaric Men on the Gridiron

By Michael Miller

 

In the last couple weeks there has been a media frenzy regarding the sexual preference of a football star from the University of Missouri, who is hoping to be drafted in the upcoming NFL draft.  The All-American defensive end, Michael Sam, came out to the world stating he was gay. The media has been having a “field day” with the story and have been asking questions to various athletes in the NFL and other public figures as to their reactions. Players, coaches, general managers, and media have all had their opinion on the situation and for some, the feedback has been positive. However with that said there has also been negative feedback, some alluding to how potential players would feel who might have to play along side him and share a locker room.

 

Football is a sport that is all about being strong, fast and competitive. Some may say you need a killer instinct, all characteristics that we stereotype as the alpha male of our society. It is a sport of gladiators, where the players fit a certain mold of what the sport says is required to be a good/professional player, unfortunately when someone who doesn’t fit this mold, people may have a difficult time adapting to the changes. The turn of the 20th century society became obsessed with men’s competitive sports, possibly due to the fact that our society during this period was worried that the boys were becoming soft (Kian et al, 2013).

 

Football, and other sports, has had many changes that have occurred in the past, which has resolved its self in the end resulting in people becoming accepting of those changes (i.e. African males playing with Caucasian males).  Will this result in the same thing for gay men in professional football? Will players be excepting of having a gay teammate in the locker room?

 

In Kian et al, 2013 research there was an interview by a reporter in his late 40s about gay man in football. The reporter stated it may be stereotypes but he just can’t see too many gay men playing football, that football players are big, strong, barbaric men and that he believed that we would see gay men in sports, but would never see a gay man in football while he is alive. Views such as this one may be what is going to hinder gay athletes acceptance in the football as our society deems football for the straight alpha man and that it is going to be a struggle for gay men to be excepted. The reason from as far as I can gather is that society is set in their ways regarding thoughts pertaining to your sexual preference. Gay men, are typically seen someone who “takes on” more female characteristics. Our society tends to look at female characteristics as fragile and/or emotional – which are two characteristics that are not typically seen in the sport of football.

 

In my opinion and as a person who has played football my whole life I don’t know why someone’s sexual preference should interfere with his or her ability to play football. If someone is a strong player why should they be considered to be not a good fit for an organization because they may be a distraction? This has been the theme in a lot of the responses toward Michael Sam. If a player is an exceptional athlete and teammate and he is going to benefit your team’s success then why not want him on the team?

 

Reference:

 

Kian, E., Anderson, E., Vincent, J., and Murray, R. (2013) Sport journalists’ views on gay men in sport, society and within sport mediaInternational Review for the Sociology of Sport, (ahead of print), 1-17.

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5 responses

  1. I enjoyed reading your post Mike. Especially since we had just spoke of this.

    I liked your last sentence the most. At the end of the day, professional sports is about winning and losing. There may be other areas of focus on the teams but fans (The most important stakeholder) care about the “W”. If a gay athlete can help my team win, who cares about his or her sexual preference?
    Patrick Burke, son of Brian Burke, lost his brother, Brendan Burke in a car crash on February 5th, 2010. Brendan was an athlete and student manager at Miami University for the men’s ice hockey team. In November 2009, he made international headlines for coming out, advocating for tolerance and speaking out against homophobia professional sports.

    Because of this, it sparked a movement by Patrick Burke called the YouCanPlay project. This was created to remove homophobia from sport and make it inclusive to everyone, gay or straight. The “You Can Play” symbolizes that it doesn’t matter what your sexual preference is, if you want to or can play sports, you can play.

    Since then, school teams, professional teams, and amateur teams, singers, actors from all over the world have made “You Can Play” videos. I made one for the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds. Have a look:

    http://youcanplayproject.org/videos/entry/you-can-play-univeristy-of-new-brunswick

    Thanks again Mike.

    Jason

  2. I also agree with Michael’s conclusion and found this post interesting. When it comes to all sports, I believe the only thing that matters is pure athletic ability and determination. Sexual preference likely would not affect an athletes skill or ones will to win. In competitive sports, usually the biggest, fastest and strongest athlete wins. Why couldn’t a gay man possess these abilities? They do too and should be welcomed with the same opportunity to compete as their straight team mates and competitors.

    Thanks Michael

    Andrew Connors

  3. Very well written Michael. I find this article interesting due to the fact that it highlights societies needs to place stereotypes on those who are breaking the stereotypes. Football is summarized as a man’s sport, one that requires strong, aggressive men, which is associated with heterosexism, whereas societies definition of Gay is a flamboyant more feminine male. When will people be able to get past labels and see that a title, or group stereotype does not mean those included are all the same?
    Out of my own interest I googled Michael Sam and quickly came to realize that he “fits” the stereotypical definition of a football player; large, strong and masculine. This leads me to question why all the scrutiny about his sexual preference? Is it fair to define an individual based merely on one characteristic? I agree with Michael, that a players capabilities and skills are not hindered by sexual preference, therefore media and society should not view heterosexism or homosexuality as characteristics that define an athlete.
    Thank you Michael.

    Kaitlyn Willis

  4. Nice post Michael,

    I like how you’ve linked the stereotypical view of what a heterosexual man should be like, with the overly masculine sport of Football. This is an ideal sport to challenge stereotypes and discrimination. To me it seems pretty sad that someone’s sexuality may hinder and depict what sort of sports they play. I feel that until we tackle homophobia and gender stereotyping in our wider society, we will not be able to rid sports of discrimination. However, I do feel like sports men and women could help break down those barriers. Taking the case of Michael Sam, coming out in the height of his career will benefit others. I also feel the media have a part to play in how they deal with “news stories” like this, the fact that this has even made it as a news story is an example of where we are going wrong. I agree that someone’s sexual orientation should not have any impact on his/her sporting career. If someone has the capability to participate within a team, he/she should not be affected by not just sexual orientation, but gender also.

    Will Jennings

  5. Good Post Michael,
    I was curious to see how Michael would do at the combine. Reports say he struggled, false starting a couple of times on the 40, and for whoever thinks that hitting 225lbs for 17 reps is weak I would urge them to try it. Ok, maybe it isn’t as many reps as some of the other players have put up but he is considered a little small for the position he plays (based on the NFL Combine reports). Having watched some of Michaels highlights, to me he fits the criteria of the perfect athlete for his sport. He is fast, athletic, has great awareness, and sacks the QB. Michael recently had an interview with the New York Times, stating that he had come out to his team before coming out to media and they accepted him with open arms. He even stated that his team mates were relieved that he finally came out because they always had a hunch that he may be gay. In Michael’s own words “if my team can support me, any team can support me”. As you stated, what difference does sexual preference make in an athlete? Michael Sam is an amazing football player and as such should be reviewed and rated as such. In my opinion he should not have to worry about his Draft position due to his sexuality. Again, very interesting post and having spoke about it in class, I had to go see the highlights on Michael Sam and was caught saying “WOW” a lot!

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