It didn’t take long for the false equivalency crowd to begin the campaign
It has to stop.
We need a larger comparison catalogue. Every politician you disagree with isn’t like Adolph Hitler, people who are slightly to the left than the Koch Brothers aren’t communists and every athlete who gets praised or criticized isn’t like Tim Tebow.
Michael Sam awakened the inner homophobe in men across America when he became the first openly gay player drafted in the NFL. This is a religious reaction for these men.
No, I’m not talking about the Bible and how the apostle Paul wrote about homosexuality being a sin. I’m talking about real worship. People will miss church for any reason and the number of Bibles that are read outside of churches are few and far between.
But NFL fans would never miss a game and they were filling out mock drafts and reading up on every player from North Dakota State Technical College for Teachers who might be that one missing piece of the puzzle to help their favorite teams get into the playoffs.
That is true religious zeal, and watching Michael Sam kiss his boyfriend on live television during one of their “worship services” was troubling.
Players are concerned that he will be ogling their nakedness in locker rooms. Fathers are worried that their sons will want to kiss other boys to be like Sam.
It was interesting. Somehow the fact that Sam kissed a man was the target of complaints. No one mentioned the fact that he kissed a white man. I know if it would have been a white woman, the internet comments would have been wildly racist. But in the NFL world, I guess homophobia is a stronger force than racism.
It didn’t take long for the false equivalency crowd to begin the campaign. “Tim Tebow was attacked for being a Christian but Michael Sam is celebrated for being gay.”
That is ludicrous.
Sam is the first openly gay man to be drafted. He is Neil Armstrong on the moon.
Tebow was a below average quarterback whose only claim to fame was Bible verses in his eye black. Tebow is a great guy and competitor. But he wasn’t a great NFL quarterback.
So when his following grew larger than his talent could bear, people pushed back. Tebow kept his faith on the front page of his player bio so that is one of the ways he was attacked.
Tebowing became an internet meme.
But I don’t think his treatment was only because he was a Christian. Far better quarterbacks have been equally open about their faith and they weren’t mocked.
Kurt Warner went from sacking groceries to dodging sacks in three Super Bowls. When he was asked about winning the Super Bowl, he answered this way, “Before I do or say anything else, I must thank my Lord and Savior in Heaven, thank you, Jesus.”
In fact, he explained why he talks about his faith openly.
“Whether I'm a Super Bowl Champion or a regular guy stocking groceries at the Hy-Vee, sharing my faith and glorifying Jesus is the central focus of my time on this earth,” Warner said.
But Warner’s success in the league gave him that platform.
Tebow was a public relations sensation. When that happens, you become polarizing. Tebow’s jersey was the top seller everywhere he went because of his huge fan following. But those who questioned why he gets jobs because of popularity while great quarterbacks who don’t have the same story get left wearing a baseball cap on the sidelines, pushed back.
Sam will feel the same pressure if the St. Louis Rams keep putting him on the field even though he misses tackles or gets burned on touchdowns.
The spotlight will be on Sam like it was on Tebow for very different reasons.
Many will say he was drafted because he was gay. Others will complain that he repeatedly kissed his boyfriend on live television. It was a bit more of a makeout session than most players engage in after being drafted but I’m not quite cynical enough to say it was planned or staged. From Sam’s tearful reaction when the Rams’ called to tell him he was being drafted, you could tell the past year after coming out of the closet had weighed heavily on him.
Sam has broken ground. There was a time when the fact that he was black would have been a scandal. Now it is because he is gay.
Hopefully, this will be the last time his sexuality is a big story. I hope people can focus on how he plays and not who he goes home to.
That is probably a little naïve. But a guy can dream, can’t he?
Bush is the publisher of the Butler County Times Gazette and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org