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Final Thoughts on Michael Sam, a Homosexual NFL Player and the Elephant in the Locker Room

| February 12th, 2014

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Full disclosure: DaBearsBlog is not my only job.

I started my theatre career in New York City as the Assistant Artistic Director of a now-defunct organization called Musical Theatre Works. I was subsequently part of the team that launched the inaugural New York Musical Theatre Festival (“NYMF”) in the city and parlayed that gig into the role of Associate General Manager of the Helen Hayes Theatre on Broadway. (I was historically awful at the latter.) All the while I wrote. Plays. Musicals. Poetry. Everything. In 2005 I no longer depended on administrative-type roles to support my writing career. (That lasted a few years. Then it didn’t. Then it did again!)

Why do I tell you this? Because when it comes to homosexual exposure, I am uniquely qualified as a straight man. Most people might have a few folks they know who might be gay. Everyone I work with is gay. So let’s destroy a few myths and clarify a few things when it comes to Michael Sam’s prospective locker room reception in the NFL.

First, let’s discuss the shower situation.

From a piece in the New York Daily News:

Former Jets linebacker Jonathan Vilma was accused of homophobia in 2011 when he tweeted: “Grown men should NOT hav [SIC]female tendencies. Period.”

Just last week, Vilma, now with the New Orleans Saints, said gays would not be accepted in most team NFL locker rooms.

“Imagine if he’s the guy next to me, and you know, I get dressed, naked, taking a shower, the whole nine, and it just so happens he looks at me, how am I supposed to respond?” Vilma said in an NFL Network interview.

Let me ask Jonathan Vilma and every other ignorant straight male in the world a question. When you are naked and there is a woman nearby, do you assume that woman will not be able to suppress the urge to drop down to her knees and throw you inside her mouth simply because you are the gender she sexually prefers? Just because homosexuals like men doesn’t mean they like ALL men, Mr. Vilma. And there’s a good chance the one or two homosexuals in your locker room won’t like YOU. But why would I expect a more nuanced view?

Are gay men a bit stereotyped by an historically promiscuous lifestyle and seemingly willy-nilly, anonymous sexual lifestyle? Yes they are. But let’s be honest here. If women would subscribe to that type of lifestyle, how many of straight men would have spent their twenties hopping from bathroom stall to bathroom stall with whatever lady was seated on the adjacent stool?

And if the AIDS crisis led to a changed sexual approach for the homosexual male population, I’d argue the one demographic has maintained the toss it in any hole anywhere attack plan is professional athletes.

Side note: why does the NFL even have group showers anymore? These are billion-dollar organizations! They can’t put in some stalls? My gym has stalls.

The shower business is a smokescreen. It is a convenient, surface excuse to hide what is underneath the surface. Ignorance. Hatred. Bigotry.

THE ELEPHANT IN THE LOCKER ROOM

What comprises the majority of an NFL locker room? Three things:

  1. Urban African-Americans. (I hate the phrase but I don’t need to be fighting that fight right now.)
  2. Southern/rural African-Americans.
  3. Southern/rural whites.

Yes, I recognize there are exceptions to these categories and quite often they are quarterbacks. But most great football players come from the football hotbeds of Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, urban Los Angeles, western Pennsylvania and Ohio. (To read some interesting breakdowns of NFL demographics, simply click here and take a look at a thorough analysis.)

What do these three categories of Americans have in common? Christianity in large quantities. These are demographics that by and large do not approve of homosexuality for one reason: their pastor tells them so. And one does not need to call the clergy and have them fax a sermon to show an example. One can look inside the league for quotes on the subject. Self-appointed NFL morality czar Tony Dungy has led the way!

From a staff report at USA Today:

Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy said he knows some people would rather he steered clear of Indiana’s gay marriage debate, but he clearly staked out his position nonetheless.

The Super Bowl-winning coach “embraced” the stance of an Indiana organization supporting an amendment to the state constitution that would ban gay marriages, and he added Tuesday night at a gathering of the Indiana Family Institute that he’s “on the Lord’s side.”

“We’re not trying to downgrade anyone else,” said Dungy, coach of the Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts. “But we’re trying to promote the family — family values the Lord’s way,” Dungy said. “IFI is saying what the Lord says. You can take that and make your decision on which way you want to be.”

Then…

Bil Browning, managing editor of Bilerico.com, a blog that focuses on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues in Indiana, was surprised to learn of Dungy’s remarks.

“It is unfortunate that coach Dungy has chosen to align himself with the Indiana Family Institute,” he said. “The Colts were supported this season by all of their fans — gay and straight.”

Dungy is the man the NFL enlisted to walk Michael Vick back onto the path of the straight and narrow. Dungy is the man who cast judgment upon the Dolphins (unfairly, I might add) in the wake of the Incognito/Martin debacle. Dungy seems to be the man who with the mere act of picking up the telephone can place one of his former lieutenants in any head coaching position he pleases.

Dungy’s word is gospel in NFL circles. Forgive me if I don’t make the sign of the cross. Dungy defends traditional family values. Remember them? Those were the ones that made the mixing of races a crime punishable by rope. Those were the ones that said it was okay for a husband to hit his wife if she spoke out of turn or dared to venture more than five feet from the kitchen without a mop in her hand. “Traditional family values” don’t exist because family values have constantly evolved – with man – over time. History looks poorly upon the last group to deny that natural evolution.

I have no issues with a person possessing a belief. But if that belief persecutes others, standing silent is no longer an issue.

BUT LET ME FINISH…

Change has to come from the pulpit, not the locker room. Until a generation of men enter the NFL who have been taught on Sunday mornings to respect the humanity of other men, the locker room will always be a difficult place for a man like Michael Sam. Until the preaching of this bigotry and hatred is no longer commonplace in the houses of worship, the existence of this bigotry and hatred will swell in the hearts of those populating their pews and subsequently NFL draft boards.

Oscar Hammerstein wrote in The Sound of Music, “You have to be taught to be afraid of people who’s eyes are oddly made and people who’s skin is a different shade.”  He was talking about racism. He was talking in 1949.

Stephen Sondheim wrote in Into the Woods, “Careful the things you say. Children will listen.”

It starts in the churches of west Texas and Baton Rouge. It starts tomorrow morning. Not with the fella headed to A&M or LSU. With the fella headed to grammar school. Only then will the locker room door swing open for Michael Sam.

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