During Super Bowl week, Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma made a controversial comment based on the hypothetical example of a gay player being on his team. Now that former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam has come out as gay, Vilma has expressed remorse for his prior remarks.
“It was a poor illustration of the example I was trying to give on the context, so I do apologize for that,” Vilma said Monday night on CNN, via the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “I was trying to explain that whenever you have change into something that’s been set in stone for so long, something that’s been going for so long, that change always comes with a little resistance. . . .
“You have people that can be more outgoing, more open-minded. You have people that are a little more close-minded. Some people grew up with or without the acceptance of gays within their families. You have a lot of different elements within the locker room that you just don’t see right now. Me being on the inside for 10 years, inside the locker room, I’ve been around that.”
Asked about the the acceptance of a gay player during Super Bowl week, Vilma told NFL Network, “I think that he would not be accepted as much as we think he would be accepted. I don’t want people to just naturally assume, like, ‘Oh, we’re all homophobic.’ That’s really not the case. Imagine if he’s the guy next to me and, you know, I get dressed, naked, taking a shower, the whole nine, and it just so happens he looks at me. How am I supposed to respond?”
On Monday, Vilma explained that he doesn’t know how things will unfold in the locker room because no openly gay player has played for an NFL team.
“I don’t know and the players don’t know because it’s the first time that you have a Michael Sam, who will by all accounts be drafted, openly gay, come into a locker room,” Vilma said. “No one in the NFL in the past however many years has experienced this before so this is all new for everybody, this is new territory.”
It’s definitely new territory, and in a way it’s a good thing that a player has come out before being drafted by any one team. For the next three months, every player currently in the league will have to realize that it ultimately could be his team that drafts Sam, which necessarily will compel every player to consider how he will handle the situation if Sam ends up on the player’s team, because as of right now there’s a one-in-32 chance Sam will.