In response to all of the coverage about Michael Sam, the guy who in all likelihood will be the first openly gay player in the National Football League, NFL Nation and ESPN Magazine surveyed 51 anonymous players in the NFL gauging their level of comfort with an openly gay player. The results are much what one would expect:
Although the survey showed that most players aren’t concerned with another’s sexual orientation, it also made clear the concerns that players would have with learning how to relate to an openly gay teammate.
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 concern for players appeared to be learning how they could relate to a teammate they knew was gay and whether they would need to behave any differently around him.
According to one starting receiver, “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.” - ESPN
With that said, here’s something to keep in mind: During regular season, the each of the 32 teams in the NFL can only have 53 players. That’s about 1,700 active players during regular season. ESPN’s survey only polled 51 players, so at 3% of players polled, that’s a small sample size. That said, I’m excited to see what this upcoming draft has in store for Sam. Sam described the difference of the locker room culture in an interesting way;
“There is a little more of a family environment in college. It was more like having brothers,” said Sam. “In the NFL, you have friends, but it’s a more work-oriented environment. I hope guys can be professional and respect who he is and leave his personal life out of it.”
Keeping that in mind, and I like what the last paragraph said about establishing boundaries. You don’t make fag jokes or call women cunts with your boss at the office. The other players don’t have to agree, they just have to work with him and respect him. It’s about time there’s an open player in the NFL, and once the rest of the teams see it’s no big deal, it will be no big deal. And that’s what we’re going for isn’t it?