Gay Rights, The NFL, Sex And Dignity

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In the social media frenzy to appear politically correct, sensitive and open minded, a few points seem to be missing from people’s observations about Missouri football player, Michael Sam, and his recent announcement about being gay.

First, the unfortunate and obligatory disclaimer: no, I’m not a bigot or homophobic as absolutely anybody who knows me can confirm. Nor is what I’m about to write meant to offend any person or group. In today’s highly charged and polarized philosophical climate, such prefaces must be made.

Point one should be that Sam’s timing in making his public revelation is curiously interesting. Now many are wondering—including the widely-hailed Texas sportscaster who defended Sam, becoming a YouTube sensation in the process—whether Sam’s position in the upcoming NFL draft will fall because of his homosexuality. Funny: if he does fall to lower rounds he and his agent will have a great reason why, won’t they? It’s because of those backward, Neanderthal team owners and coaches who won’t recognize the talent of this great athlete just because he’s gay. Uh, huh.

Point two has to do with human sexuality itself. There is a reason why men and women don’t share locker rooms or, to bring the point closer to the topic, why even NFL cheerleaders aren’t allowed to date players. I’m a straight man and I can promise you, if I’m around women undressing and showering in front of me. I’m going to notice. Being a gentleman, I wouldn’t act on my perfectly natural impulses but it sure as hell would be a distraction. It is unreasonable to think some players might themselves feel uncomfortable around Sam? Sure, they’re professionals. But so are the cheerleaders. They’re kept apart from the male players for a reason.

It’s because of human nature and sexuality that I think the Boy and Girl Scouts were right in the initial decision to keep gays out of their ranks (besides the fact of their being private organizations). I would not send my daughters off to camp with a group of boys or to be led by a male troop leader. Plain and simple. Temptation exists and restraint is not quite as common these days as it used to be. For that same reason I would feel uncomfortable about them being on a camping trip with lesbians.

I am certainly not saying that gays and lesbians are all sexual predators—far from it. I am simply not going to put my children in an awkward situation where any such temptation exists. That’s why, when my youngest has spend-the-night parties, little boys aren’t invited. It’s the same principle applied to the scouting situation. I wouldn’t want my wife, girlfriend, mother or sister in a locker room surrounded by men, either.

Rainbow_flag I also take issue with gay rights being compared to the civil rights struggles of African-Americans. While the latter dealt with the demoralizing “colored-only” facilities, were refused services routinely—including medical ones—lynched, harassed, and sprayed down by hoses and attacked with dogs by police officers, I know of no gay people who have had to face THAT kind of systemic and systematic discrimination and abuse. Yes, some gay youth have been murdered because of their orientation but not in the massive numbers Blacks were. One is too many, I know, but that applies to ANY murder, not just the strangely-named “hate” crimes. Aren’t all murders the result of hatred?

I know some discrimination exists against gay people. But discrimination exists everywhere in this world, unfortunately. There is no doubt that, today, there is substantially less discrimination against gays than ever before in our nation’s history. In fact, gay people are prominent in the business, entertainment and, now, even political world. Professional football is another issue.

Should gay men be allowed to play pro football? They have and they already do. Why, then, is this Michael Sam going public a few months before the draft? I alluded earlier to what may have been his (or his agent’s) motives but I don’t see how being a martyr can help his career. If his goal was more lofty, to encourage other gay athletes, that’s fine, too—to a point. There are probably more effective ways, though.

You see, I could care less who people sleep with. I’m also not that concerned with who other people marry. I do take note and question, however, when so many in the general public want to force—or guilt—private institutions into changes they may not be prepared or want to make.

Why didn’t Sam wait until after the draft? If his motive was to draw attention to gay athletes he probably would have gotten more traction after he had been selected by a team that wanted him for his abilities. Now, his drafting and signing will be a total media and political circus and—as most other “hot” issues debated today are—also very nasty and undignified. Maybe, again, that’s what he actually wanted. Notoriety brings celebrity and celebrity brings wealth in this society.

The gay people I have known all my life were not secret about it, with one exception. In school and at work, the gay friends I’ve had never made it a secret—they just didn’t advertise, promote or make a national issue out of it as Michael Sam has now done. There’s something to be said for quiet dignity and pride that is based on knowledge of one’s self and not on the approval of millions of others.

From the age of 12 to 17 one of my best friends, I later found out, was gay. I had no idea and neither did any of the kids in our circle. We were extremely close and, when I look back, I wish he had been able to have said something. Maybe he just didn’t want to or was scared—I’ll never know. I’d like to think that most of us would have accepted Stephen for what he was without a problem; I certainly would have. But, those were different times. It wasn’t until years later, when he had moved away and tragically succumbed to the HIV/AIDS virus, that all of his old classmates found out.

On the one hand, it’s progress indeed when stigmas and prejudices fall by the wayside, as they obviously are doing now. But, in my personal opinion, to advertise one’s most personal dimension and dare others not to approve, appreciate or accept it is another issue entirely—as is using your lifestyle simply to shock or to garner publicity.

And, frankly, I’m also a little tired of the crowd out there looking for yet another cause, be it Gay Rights, Dog Rights, Planet Rights, whatever—-and here’s why: The way this nation is going we all better be concerned with Individual Rights, which supersedes any and all other derivatives. Because while some of us are so busy being sanctimonious on Facebook about these other highly specific “rights” violations, the powers that be will be stripping ALL of us of ALL of our rights—and then we’re going to have a problem sure enough.

When it comes to the concept of rights, the best way to achieve freedom and autonomy for every single person—whether gay, straight, black, white, Christian or atheist—is to fight for the all-encompassing individual. For the rights of individuals—not solely gay athletes—like Michael Sam.

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Jack Criss

Jack Criss

Publisher and Executive Editor at BAMSouth.com
Jack Criss is the Publisher and Executive Editor of BAMSouth.com and owner of Criss Public Relations. He is a 30 year veteran of the business publishing industry as well as a former talk radio host, lecturer and author of "Ready, Aim, Right!" (Quail Ridge Press, 2004) and the forthcoming "The Great Greek Philosopher: Aristotle For Young People" (DagKat Press, 2017) as well as a work of teen fiction, "Book Island" and the non-fiction title "SuperfloUS: When Mediocrity Is Enshrined And Civility Fades." He was born, raised and currently lives in Ridgeland, MS and is the proud father of Katie and Dagny.
Jack Criss
Jack Criss
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