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

  • In this Jan. 1, 2014, file photo, Missouri senior defensive lineman Michael Sam speaks to the media during an NCAA college football news conference in Irving, Texas. Sam says he is gay, and he could become the first openly homosexual player in the NFL. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade, File)

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."

He wanted to tell his own story. He didn't want his story told by someone else. He didn't want his narrative misstated or ruined.

Brave. Smart. Correct.

In the ESPN interview, he said all that should matter is that he's a football player. Can he help the team win games? Period. "It's a work place," he said of an NFL locker room, "people want to act professional."

And that leads us to the NFL, to the various teams, to the various locker rooms. Will there be bad repercussions for Sam?

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