Plenty of owners and General Managers and coaches have issued statements about defensive end Michael Sam, the first openly gay NFL player. The league had issued a statement of support upon Sam’s decision to come out as gay three nights ago, but the Commissioner previously had not addressed the issue.
Speaking Wednesday at Reverend Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition Wall Street Project in New York, Roger Goodell addressed Sam’s situation publicly for the first time.
“Good for him,” Goodell said, via NFL spokesman Greg Aiello’s Twitter page. “He’s proud of who he is and had the courage to say it. Now he wants to play football. We have a policy prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. We will have further training and make sure that everyone understands our commitment. We truly believe in diversity and this is an opportunity to demonstrate it.”
It’s not known what specific training will be provided, but it should be given not only to the players on the team that drafts Sam but to all players, since many of them will encounter Sam in a game, if Sam’s career flourishes.
Even if Sam doesn’t make it, his decision could prompt others to do the same.
And here’s where we once again point out that every gay player who hasn’t come out has every right to continue to live that way, if that’s what he wants to do. It’s unfair to suggest that gay players who opt to keep their private lives private aren’t brave.
Thus, the training should cover both types of gay players — those who choose to come out and those who choose not to. Straight players should be cautioned not to pressure gay players into coming out, and all players should be told that not only openly gay players but players believed to be gay should receive the appropriate respect and consideration in the locker room and on the field.