Michael Sam, the star Missouri defensive end, made big news recently by coming out publicly as gay. This obviously drew a wide variety of responses. Some lauded him as the next Jackie Robinson, some wanted to make him a symbol, some are even a bit mad that he doesn’t want to be an activist right now, some don’t know how to respond, and some posted vitriolic and hateful tweets. Yay internet. There are some people who openly questioned whether a gay man belonged in the NFL. Others, more thoughtfully, wondered whether or not the media circus he would bring with him is worth it, similar to concerns teams have of the circus that Tim Tebow brings wherever he goes whether he wants to or not. It definitely doesn’t help that guys like Chris Kluwe, a gay activist, accused his team of cutting him because of his activism rather than the more obvious reason that he just wasn’t that great of a punter and was a salary cap casualty. That didn’t stop many people in the media from jumping on that narrative.
There haven’t been too many Christian responses out there, to my knowledge, so I’ll chime in. If I were running an NFL team, would I draft a known gay player?
Why yes, yes I would. If he was good enough, behaved professionally, and ultimately helped my team win games, why wouldn’t I? And while I admit that I did not watch a large amount of Missouri football this year, Sam is obviously a legitimate NFL talent.
As a Christian, do I disagree with the homosexual lifestyle? Yes; I’ve made that clear many times on this blog. However, as a Christian, I already disagree with a great many athletes’ sexual lifestyles. Athletes are often promiscuous, cheat on their wives or girlfriends, live with women whom they are not married to, go to strip clubs, hire prostitutes, etc. Biblical Christians would disagree with all of that and would put them all under the label “sexual sin” to go along with homosexual relations. Nonetheless, if I were a GM or owner of a team, it is not my job to police everyone’s personal lives. Obviously, there is some threshold where bad behavior becomes damaging to the team, which is why guys like Pacman Jones get red-flagged, but as long as players do their jobs professionally and don’t go out and unduly embarrass the team, I would sign them if they’re good enough. Lebron James just got married despite already having kids with his girlfriend. I think that’s sexual sin, but if I were an NBA GM and he wanted to sign with my team, I’d shove a contract in his face.
One thing that sports should be about is merit of play; if you’re good enough and not garnering a ton of negative attention off the field for dumb things, you should play. It doesn’t always work out that way (there are always people swayed too much by politics and ego, or sometimes people are just bad at talent evaluation or coaching), but it should. I admit that I would dislike the media attention Sam would bring, especially if it got to the point where he had to be cut for either football or salary cap reasons because some simple-minded bozos in the media would jump to conclusions. Still, if I had a big need at defensive end or outside linebacker and I thought he could fill that need well, why the heck would I pass him up if he has no behavioral problems from college?
Now, if we ever got into a private conversation and he asked me about my religious views, I would be happy to share my views about Christ. But I would not treat him differently than the other players on the team. I would treat him with professional respect, pay him what I think his value is to the team, and cut, trade, or keep him based on his play and on the available options. That’s the business of professional sports. I don’t understand why that’s hard to understand for so many people. I don’t think I would like the job because I’d honestly feel bad about cutting players, but I’d know I’d have to do it if I was in that profession. Heck, when I played team sports growing up, there were many players on my team who lived lifestyles I did not agree with such as drinking underage, getting wasted, having premarital sex, etc. That doesn’t mean I didn’t pass them the ball when we were playing.
When the announcement was all over the news, I basically ignored it. My thinking was, “If he’s good enough, let him play.” That may rub some people the wrong way who want to make a statement on homosexuality on one side or the other, but really, the best thing for Sam’s future career is that he isn’t given special treatment from any other player. And if you’re looking to athletes for moral guidance just because they’re athletes, that’s your problem (unfortunately, a lot of people do, including looking at actors, rappers, and other celebrities for no rational reason). This is why I get annoyed when people talk too much about race when it comes to sports. As a Korean, if the University of Texas put a Korean at QB just to make some sort of statement and better quarterbacks were passed up, I’d be the first to ridicule the coaching staff. If a QB behaves within certain parameters and passes his classes and he’s the best at his position, he should play, regardless of race. Likewise, if Sam is as good a defensive player as analysts claim, then any team who needs a DE should draft him. Simple as that. That doesn’t mean that his sexual lifestyle automatically becomes right or wrong by simple virtue of him playing football.