Openly gay athletes deserve extensive media coverage

Feb. 27, 2014

Column by Lucas Wimmer

On Sunday, basketball player Jason Collins became the first openly gay athlete to play in a major professional sport.

A month ago, Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam came out as gay, and when he is drafted in May, he will become the first openly gay National Football League player.

Do I hope in the future this is not a story? Absolutely.

Do I think this is something that should be a huge story right now? Absolutely.

There is a plethora of reasons why this should be a story, the most important being these athletes are now comfortable enough to stand at the top of the mountain that is the media and yell how they feel. That’s a story in and of itself.

The fact that some high-ranking officials in their sports still say this could be a distraction in their locker room makes it a big deal.

Some of their own peers and fellow athletes, who know how the scrutiny of the media will affect them, still speak out against their sexual orientation. This makes this a story.

To say these athletes are trying to shove their orientation in our faces through the media just because this is a story is misguided. The LGBT community is a minority, and 96.5 percent of America identifies differently from them. The fear of being ostracized to the point of losing their job kept LGBT people from playing sports, or at the very least being open about their orientation while they played.

Straight people do not have to announce to the media that they are straight because it’s the norm. They do not have to worry about a backlash from anyone telling them their lifestyle is repulsive or against their values.

Sam made his announcement because he knew the media circus that would come along with it, and wanted to get it out of the way so he could just play football.

At the NFL Combine, he said he hopes soon he will be known as “Michael Sam the football player, not Michael Sam the gay football player.”

Knowing that he will be the first to do something and not wanting the spotlight is commendable to me.

Being the first to do anything is important. Whether it’s being the first person in your family to go to college, being the first person to climb Mt. Everest, or being in the position that Collins and Sam are, it’s a monumental achievement.

I hope in the future, an athlete’s sexual orientation is something like his or her birthday: I have no idea what it is unless I Google it.

For now, though, I am excited these achievements continue to garner the attention that they deserve.

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