Michael Sam is likely to become the first openly gay player in the NFL come draft time in May, and there has been plenty of debate over whether he will be accepted by his teammates or not. If a recent survey of 51 anonymous NFL players is any indication, Sam should feel pretty welcome.
ESPN.com’s NFL Nation and ESPN the Magazine combined to poll 51 players, which is roughly the size of an NFL roster. They were asked to answer four true-false questions. The results showed that 44 out of 51 players (86%) said a teammate’s sexual orientation did not matter to them. Slightly less said they would feel comfortable showering around an openly gay teammate, as 76% responded “true” to that question.
The most concerning result may have been when players were asked if they believed an openly gay player would feel comfortable in an NFL locker room. 25 players said they thought he would, 21 players said he would not, and five chose not to answer. In other words, only 54% of the players surveyed felt that a gay player could feel at ease with locker room culture.
“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,” one starting wide receiver reportedly said. “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.”
That is the same sentiment that was expressed by Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark, and I’m sure a lot of players wonder if they will have to act differently.
Someone like Sam who was respected by his college teammates should have very few problems. He’s been around football his entire life. He’s heard all the jokes and by all indications was as much a part of the Mizzou team and culture as anyone else. In some cases, I think NFL players are over-thinking it.Google+