Earlier this week, former Ravens and Vikings center Matt Birk was asked about Michael Sam and said he thought that someone’s sexuality didn’t come into play at work.
Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas isn’t so sure that Birk is right. Thomas called the attention that will be directed at Sam a lot for one player and said that it “could be difficult for some people” in NFL locker rooms to accept Sam because they aren’t sure how to act around an openly gay teammate.
“I think society is ready for it and America’s ready for it, but I don’t think the NFL is,” Thomas said, via ESPNNewYork.com. “As a player, all you want to know is if he can play. That’s on the field. But in the locker room, it’s different. There’s a lot of talk and joking around, and some guys walk around completely naked all the time, and they might not want to do that anymore. When you add that situation to the mix, I think it’s going to make some people uncomfortable.”
Thomas said his “views as a Christian” contributed to his own uncertainty about how things will go for Sam in the NFL and said he was “pretty sure” he’s played with other gay players during his career, but that there was a big difference between “knowing and not knowing” when it came to the locker room. As for the Missouri team accepting and embracing Sam in their locker room, Thomas said it was different because they knew Sam before he came out.
It would be naïve to think that Thomas is incorrect about the potential discomfort that some players may have with sharing a locker room with Sam, but it seems Sam’s decision to come out now would be better for his future teammates than waiting as he did at Missouri.
Every player in the team is a potential teammate of Sam’s right now and they have several months to contemplate the possibility that they’ll have to deal with their discomfort now rather than having it pop up once Sam’s already on the team. Using that time should make it easier for everyone to focus on football more quickly once Sam does land with a team.