Michael Sam, the first openly gay college football player to get picked up in the National Football League (NFL) draft, has been cut from another practice squad. He had been drafted by the Rams, then cut, then picked up by the Cowboys. He was cut from their practice squad yesterday. He had never played in any regular season games, though he did take the field for the Rams during the pre-season.
Sam tweeted his appreciation for the opportunity and said he's going to keep fighting for a spot on a team. The cut has prompted media analysis of what it all means. Kevin O'Keeffe at The Atlantic grasps the palpable disappointment, even if there are solid reasons why Sam's NFL career might not be meant to be:
For those who are disappointed, the hardest part is often not knowing how to respond to the news. Why can't it just be about homophobia? Why can't there be some easily identified evil here, something that we can make a hashtag campaign about? What is there to change when the answer isn't "no," but "not now"? After all, "now" fits the narrative better. "Now" fits into the moment of acceptance the nation is experiencing as more and more states establish marriage equality. If only Michael Sam was the right fit for the Rams, or for the Cowboys, or for another team. It could have been now, those who are disappointed will sigh. It should have been now.
That's why this can't just be chalked up to "it was the best thing for the team" for many observers. Humans don't work that way. Sam is a lovable hero, and it was easy to cheer him on. The hardest thing to accept isn't that Sam isn't going to be on the national field at some point. Even if it's not him, there will be an openly gay NFL player, and that moment is coming very soon.
But that moment is not now. And it's okay to be disappointed about that.
But Sam hasn't really ruined any sort of narrative, except for the perhaps some sort of fairy tale that the first openly gay football player was bound to be some sort of overachieving, record-shattering superstar, and that's a fantasy we can do without. It's not a "moment" of acceptance gay Americans are experiencing right now. It's the slow culmination of a very long battle across decades that has consumed some people's whole lives (on both sides). This gay marriage advance isn't something that just happened, though it is certainly changing extremely quickly from a historical perspective. A gay NFL player coming out next year or the year after is probably still "now" in the terms of the current movement.
Sam's experience did actually illustrate that the NFL and NFL fans are ready for the guy, and they're ready for whoever the first openly gay NFL player ends up being. I agree with O'Keeffe that it's going to be soon. Assuming that people within the NFL are being honest when they Sam's sexuality was not an issue, it wouldn't surprise me if the first openly gay NFL player ended up being somebody who is already playing, and that everybody on his team already knows. (Note to football fans: That's not a blind item about any particular person. Just an observation based on trends.)