With the 249th overall selection of the 2014 NFL Draft, the St. Louis Rams selected Missouri defensive end Michael Sam. This pick was significant because the seventh-rounder became the first openly gay player to be drafted into the NFL. It was a very historic moment for the National Football League.
ESPN, knowing what a big story Sam’s selection would be, had a camera crew in his home, waiting for the reaction when his name was called. They captured a powerful and emotional scene, where Sam broke down crying, then hugged and kissed his boyfriend. The kiss went viral, with a huge response on social media. Some people supported and admired Sam for his emotion, while others responded negatively, blasting ESPN for showing it and sending homophobic remarks Sam’s way.
It’s sad that in 2014, people would react such a way to a kiss on television. Plenty of draftees give their girlfriends a kiss when their names are called, and fans don’t even do as much as bat an eye. What gives someone the audacity to suggest that Sam isn’t allowed to have an embrace with his significant other just because his significant other happens to be another male? It’s an extremely homophobic stance, whether they want to admit it or not. Everyone preaches equality until they get into a situation that is uncomfortable for them, and that’s where their true colors come out. It’s an ugly truth our nation has yet to fully come to terms with.
As for the criticism of ESPN for showing the moment, that is ludicrous as well. Just like any ESPN content, if you don’t want to see it or watch it you are free to change the channel. No one tied you to a chair and told you that you were only allowed to watch ESPN. One of the most laughable quotes I consistently saw on social media from the Sam haters said something like, “I watch ESPN to watch sports, not to see two dudes kissing each other.” First of all, this is the NFL Draft. What sport are you watching? It’s just Roger Goodell walking up to the podium and announcing picks while “draft experts” sit there and analyze the picks. No football is actually being played, so if you tune in to watch sports you came to the wrong place. Secondly, this was the seventh and final round of the draft. If you were that much of a die-hard fan to watch the seventh round of the draft in the first place, you would have known that the only storyline left was Michael Sam. Everyone was made fully aware at that point that ESPN had a camera in his home and that the moment he got drafted, they would be on site to show his reaction. If these fans knew this would be happening, why didn’t they change the channel? Were they waiting to see where Jeff Janis or Yawin Smallwood went? If you felt uncomfortable, the only person you have to blame is yourself.
In the end, I recognize that the ignorant few who tweeted their disgust about Michael Sam’s kiss are not the majority. Most people realize this is 2014 and applauded the moment, as they should. However, it’s simply disgusting that people rifle off disrespectful comments on social media knowing they face no punishment for what they say. If they were in Sam’s shoes, it would certainly be a different story. It was yet another reminder that we have a long way to go to fully achieve equality in America.