Is the World Ready for Gay Athletes?

Michael Sam is an American football player who is entering the NFL draft; he recently announced that he is gay and if he was to be drafted then he would be the first gay player to be drafted by a Big 4 sport team. Since then there have been questions in America about whether a team will be willing to draft him. Sam lead his College conference in quarterback sacks with 11 1/2 and tackles for a loss with 19, meaning that normally he would be considered an extremely good player to draft, however since he has come out, some people in the NFL have raised questions about his ability to be an NFL player, people are know raising questions about whether he is big enough, strong enough or quick enough to be an NFL player. These questions were not being raised before he made this announcement, and sadly it seems that this is likely to effect where he is taken in the draft. This should never be the case.

It is also the case that there are multiple current players who are playing in the NFL who have committed a number of crimes from drug offenses, to domestic violence and drink driving. However these players are playing in the NFL without being judged for anything other than their ability to play American Football, yet there are questions being raised simply because Sam is gay.

One of the greatest things about sport is that it is arguable the only true meritocracy that exists in the world. Unlike almost all other areas of modern life there is very little politics involved and the people who are the best athletes are those who rise to the top. Arguable the greatest athlete in the world Usain Bolt is not judged on any other factor than the fact he is the quickest man in the world over 100 or 200 meters and that is why he wins his events and this should be the same for all athletes. Therefore the sexuality of any athlete should not matter, it should simply be are they a good enough sportsperson to play for a team or win a medal.

Jason Collins recently became the first athlete to be given a contract by team in the Big 4 sports in America after announcing he is gay, however Jason Collins was never the best NBA player, he has been a journeyman Centre spending the majority of his career on the bench and he only averaged 3.6 points per game and 3.8 rebounds per game in his 14 year career. This meant that he was not likely to be given another contract anyway, and he should not be given one if a team did not think he was not good enough; however last week he was signed by the Brooklyn Nets to play off the bench.

Sport has always been one of the frontrunners in the integration of minorities; the prime example of this is with African American players during the time of segregation. The first biggest steps made by black people in America were in Sports, players such as Jackie Robinson in Baseball, Bill Russell and Oscar Robertson in Basketball and Jessie Owen in Athletics were all successful in their sport even during a time of segregation. These players were able to fight through the racism and segregation that existed and use their positions to speak out and fight for the rights of African American people in their country. In the way that this took place back then we should now be thinking of Sport in the same way, we should use sport as a way to once again be a frontrunner in integration.

This is not simply a problem that has been experienced in America. Former German Footballer Thomas Hitzlsperger, who spent the majority of career in the Premier League  recently came out as gay, and he said that he could not have done this whilst still playing football as it would be too hard. And the truth is it probably would; unfortunately it is likely that he would have been abused by fans. After Tom Daley came out as gay he received a lot of support on twitter but also a huge amount of abuse, some of the tweets sent to him include “I can’t believe Tom Daley is gay I’m not a fan of his anymore! he’s going to hell it’s Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve.” And “Tom Daley finally coming out of the closet, should be shot, disgusting.” And as disgusting as these are, they are some of the least hateful ones that can actually be published.

We should judge Sport stars simply on there ability to play their chosen sport, therefore an athlete should not be advantaged or disadvantaged because of their sexuality. Sport has always been one of the driving forces for integration and once again it should take the lead on this issue.

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