By Contributor on February 12, 2014

By Elizabeth Ann Thompson

It's 2014, time for the NFL to accept Michael Sam and any other gay player.

Sam, an All-American defensive end at Missouri, came out to his team last summer and to the world this past Sunday, three months before the NFL draft.

If drafted, he will be the first openly gay male athlete currently playing in professional football, baseball, hockey or basketball.

"We admire Michael Sam's honesty and courage," the NFL said in a statement. "Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014."

But several NFL coaches and general managers told Sports Illustrated that the league is not ready for this. As one put it, "In the coming decade or two, it's going to be acceptable, but at this point in time, it's still a man's-man game. ... It'd chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room."

The idea that gay athletes should just wait for a decade or two is similar to the claim made to civil rights activists back in the 1960s. But as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "There is such a thing as being too late."

And the idea that a gay athlete would create a "chemical imbalance" in the locker room is all too similar to the claim made when the Pentagon announced its plan to allow gays and lesbians to serve openly. To date, there have been no cases of "chemical imbalance" in the military.

These are the last refuges of bigots.

There are 2,000 players in the NFL. It is likely that at least a few dozen of them are gay, but for understandable reasons, they have chosen not to come out. This makes Sam's decision, timed as it was before he has even been drafted, all the more courageous.

The NFL does have a sexual orientation, anti-discrimination and harassment policy. It is now being put to the test.

If Michael Sam is not drafted, we will know that the NFL has failed the test, since a player of his stature almost always gets picked in the first three or four rounds.

If Michael Sam is drafted but hounded out of the league by the prejudice of players, coaches, team executives or fans, we will know that the NFL has failed the test.

Here's hoping the NFL passes the test.

We've been here before in sports. Sam can do for gay athletes what Jackie Robinson did for black athletes.

Change comes slowly. Thank you, Michael Sam, for the first step.

Elizabeth Ann Thompson is a freelance writer in Oakland, Calif. She can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

Copyright Elizabeth Ann Thompson.

Photo: Twin Design / Shutterstock.com.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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