In a recent segment on ESPN, the conversation of openly gay NFL hopeful Michael Sam and his future in the locker room was discussed in a constructive and respectful manor.
It was pretty incredible.
They started with a survey of 51 professional players. They asked four questions:
Forty-four players said a teammate’s sexual orientation didn’t matter to them, and 39 said they would be comfortable showering around a gay teammate. But 32 players said they had teammates or coaches who used homophobic slurs last season, and when asked whether an openly gay player would be comfortable in a NFL locker room, just 25 players said yes; 21 said no, while five declined to answer.
One really powerful part of the segment included a written in remark by one of the surveyed players. As many can imagine, the locker room and the sidelines are filled with language you wouldn’t normally hear, but the player said that with issues like race, there was still a level of understanding of what could and could not be said. The unnamed player suggested a kind of training for the team, with Sam involved, as to where those boundaries are:
“Whoever takes [Sam in the draft] should have an open talk at the beginning of camp, where everybody can ask what he’s comfortable with, what offends him, what boundaries there should be. When it comes to race, people already know the boundaries, to a certain extent. But I don’t think football players are overly familiar with what can and can’t be said around a gay person.”