Dr. Martin Luther King Junior. One man, one speech and one changed world. It only takes one person to speak out to buck even the most heinous trend. Historically, the United States has been a metaphorical prison for those who are not straight, middle-class white people. Until last year, North America did not have a single current athlete in the ‘big four’ sports to come out of the closet to the public.
NBA journeyman Jason Collins was the understated Dr. King for this generation of oppression. The waves crossed over to the NFL, where there were rumoured to be at least four players considering going public with their sexuality: however, this didn’t eventuate.
It’s been all quiet on the home front since then, until the emergence of 2014 NFL draft candidate Michael Sam. The promising talent from Missouri came out to his team mates in August, with many of them already aware of his sexual orientation. In an interview with ESPN, Sam recounted how supportive his team mates were.
The defensive end became an All-American and on paper, he seems an almost certainty come draft day. Sam will be the first openly gay NFL player if drafted, although former players Kwame Harris and Dave Kopay lead the charge, admittedly coming out after they had retired.
Yet of course, Bound For Glory News is an AFL website, so what does Sam have to do with anything? If you have followed my work, you will know that I have been an advocate for openly homosexual AFL players. I believe that if some follow in the steps of Sam, the positives for the gay community could be enormous.
If anything, Collins and Sam have shown far more courage than any athlete in Australia could. Their national audience and international reach is far greater than what the AFL attracts.
After the AFL has backed off in their support for the gay community, it is the perfect time for an Australian athlete to come forth and present themselves as a role model to those who need it.