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Michael Sam, tackling homophobia in sports

By Kristen MisakColumnist

If draft predictions are accurate, Michael Sam, former defensive end for the University of Missouri, will become the first openly homosexual player in the history of the NFL. This accomplishment would indicate a milestone in national acceptance for alternative lifestyles and likely pave the way for many other LGBT athletes to be welcomed by professional sports.

If Sam is drafted into the NFL, there will no doubt be uproar from both fans and haters. But what is unique about this particular situation is that we can expect more support than ever.

A study by Gallup Statistics shows that less than a year ago, more than 50 percent of Americans backed gays. Support is continuously rising, and the LGBT revolution is becoming a more prominent and accepted facet of our society.

For those who think that it would be wrong for Michael Sam to be drafted into the NFL, it is important to recognize the fact that playing football is a career, and it is morally wrong and in some states illegal to discriminate against a job candidate based on his or her sexual orientation. In the end, all that Michael Sam is trying to do is pursue a career in football.

Ideally, what can be accomplished by Sam’s tentative achievements is that young athletes will not feel pressured into choosing between two important parts of their lives. Gay athletes who are in the closet may feel torn between being open about their sexuality and chasing their athletic aspirations. If they come out of the closet and accept who they are, there is a good possibility that they will be discriminated against by coaches and scouts.

In order to do what they love, whether it is football or tennis or hockey, they feel obligated to hide their true selves. Michael Sam can play a crucial role in changing the way that these young gay players feel.

But even with this possibility of great progress, internationally, there is still work to be done. The host nation of the Olympics this year stubbornly enforces an anti-gay propaganda law, forcing many Olympic athletes further into the closet. Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do to change these injustices…yet.

But the biggest changes must start small. The United States has consistently been pioneers and set an example for the rest of the world. All it takes is an open mind to know that we all are equal and deserve the same opportunities. Michael Sam is capable of breaking barriers, and if we can all get behind him, LGBT Americans can finally obtain the respect and rights that they deserve.

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