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Lowell Cohn: Good call by Michael Sam on controlling his story (w/video)

  • In file photo, Missouri senior defensive lineman Michael Sam speaks to the media on Jan. 1, 2014, in Irving, Texas. Sam says he is gay. He could become the first openly gay player in the NFL. (Brandon Wade / Associated Press)

We want to praise Michael Sam, who openly stated to the world he is gay. He is a football player, a good football player at the University of Missouri, and he recently went public with his sexual orientation three months before the NFL draft.

So, yes, we want to praise him. But what are we praising him for?

The answer — or answers — are not as simple as you might think.

We are not praising him for being homosexual. In today's world, being homosexual or heterosexual or blue-eyed or brown-eyed is not a subject for praise or condemnation. As sports people like to say, it is what it is.

This neutral tone to the word “homosexual” is a new development in our society — in most societies. Not long ago, people used “homosexual” and crass synonyms — you know them — as pejoratives. Some people in our culture still consider homosexuality a sin, but most of us have evolved beyond that.

Sam deserves praise for telling the truth, for being brave. He is the first person to openly say he is gay before entering the NFL. What he did took guts. In addition to his courage, he is a remarkably poised, intelligent, mature and likeable person.

Please watch ESPN's interview with him. You will be impressed.

But even Sam's public declaration is complicated. He didn't only announce who he is because it is the right thing to do — it is — but because things in his life were moving fast.

In August, he told his teammates about himself. He was pretty sure NFL scouts and the media knew about him. He did not want to be the victim of rumors and gossip. He told ESPN he was afraid his story “would leak out without me actually owning my truth.”

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