You’d think that a sport that’s organized around maneuvers with names like “tackle” and “sack” wouldn’t be all that worried about comfort, but in the wake of college football star Michael Sam’s coming out ahead of the NFL draft, many in the football world have been wringing their hands about exactly that. Sam’s gayness, the worry goes, might make other fellows in the locker room uncomfortable, his romantic life might prove too distracting for his highly paid “professional” teammates to ignore.
All this is just a reboot of the old “unit cohesion” canard that we heard surrounding the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell—toss a gay into a group of “normal” guys, and suddenly everyone is too titillated to do their jobs. As Tyler Lopez notes elsewhere in Slate, this argument is both homophobic and weirdly infantilizing to everyone involved—but seeing it torn apart by a gruff, slightly awkward straight guy has a certain appeal. To wit: Dale Hansen of Dallas-Fort Worth ABC affiliate WFAA.
Hansen starts his monologue—which sounds like a stern half-time lecture from a coach—with a little sarcasm: “Several NFL officials are telling Sports Illustrated it will hurt him on draft day because a gay player wouldn’t be welcome in an NFL locker room. It would be uncomfortable, because that’s a man’s world.” He then goes on to point out the gross hypocrisy in that statement, to critique the political dissonance of many conservatives on this issue, and, finally, to quote none other than social justice icon Audre Lorde. If by that point you’re not convinced that this Sam thing is going to force a lot of people to confront their prejudices, you need to play it again.