Randy Smith: The Backlash Against Michael Sam

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 - by Randy Smith
Randy Smith
Randy Smith

The only openly gay man to ever be drafted by the National Football League is causing quite a stir, especially on social media sites. Missouri’s Michael Sam who was picked by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh and final round of the draft was on camera when he hugged and kissed his boyfriend after being informed of his draft selection. The video literally exploded on the internet and has been seen by millions of people on numerous sites. The backlash started almost immediately.

Miami Dolphins’ defensive back Don Jones tweeted, “OMG” and “HORRIBLE” within moments of Sam’s draft selection, and that was before Jones ever saw the video. Jones has been reprimanded by the Dolphin’s front office, and more punishment will likely follow.

Former Ole Miss basketball star Marshall Henderson had several tweets about Sam and his celebratory smooch. Henderson tweeted, “Boycotting SportsCenter till this Michael Sam nasty (expletive, expletive) is off. My brothers are 7 and 11 and saw that. #SICKENING.”  That particular tweet drew a response from Ole Miss Athletic Director Ross Bjork, who tweeted, “I’m extremely disappointed and we do not condone the statements made by our former bball player. We believe in respect and dignity for all. We use significant resources to educate out student-athletes about respect and dignity for all people, and unfortunately not everyone gets it.”

After being called on the carpet, Henderson later tweeted that it was all a special project he and a gay friend had used to test the water on social media. “One of my best friends who is gay, is about to graduate in psychology, asked me to say those things so he can have responses. The point of this study was to see how people react when others say things or act in a certain way against another group of people.”

A few months ago, when Michael Sam came out as being gay, I wrote that his action was very courageous. Even though I received several hate-filled responses, most of the comments were positive and I stick by what I wrote. What did America want to see when Sam found out he had finally been drafted? Did we want to see him shake hands with his boyfriend? Did we want to see him “high-five” him or pat him on the butt? Maybe we did, but when every straight player celebrates upon being drafted in the NFL, they hug and kiss their girlfriend and their mother. Then they hug and shake hands with their dad and other close males.

Michael Sam just did what every other player did in celebrating his draft status; he hugged and kissed his significant other.   He was likely so happy and excited, he probably wasn’t thinking, “If I kiss my boyfriend, it will draw so many negative responses on social media.” Heck, he just did it.

I will likely receive some more ugly emails for this column, but I defend Michael Sam and his choice of coming out early; before he ever entered the NFL Draft. I do know this; if he had waited to make an announcement until after the draft, I truly believe he would have gone in the fourth or fifth round as he was projected. I also support the St. Louis Rams for drafting an openly gay player, as I’m sure a few other NFL teams passed on picking Sam because he was gay.

I hope that Michael Sam gets a fair shot to make the Rams squad. I also hope that he doesn’t have to face the negative feelings and remarks that I’m sure will be in the Rams’ locker room and also in the stands. I also hope we as a society learn how to be more accepting of other people, who aren’t exactly like we are……and that’s the most important thing I can hope for. 

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Randy Smith has been covering sports on radio, television and print for the past 45 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has written two books, and has continued to free-lance as a play-by-play announcer. He is currently teaching Broadcasting at Coahulla Creek High School near Dalton, Ga.

His career has included a 17-year stretch as host of the Kickoff Call In Show on the University of Tennessee’s prestigious Vol Network. He has been a member of the Vol Network staff for thirty years.

He has done play-by-play on ESPN, ESPN II, CSS, and Fox SportSouth, totaling more than 500 games, and served as a well-known sports anchor on Chattanooga Television for more than a quarter-century.

In 2003, he became the first television broadcaster to be inducted into the Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame. Randy and his wife Shelia reside in Hixson. They have two married children, (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith.) They have three grandchildren, Coleman, Boone and DellaMae.

To contact Randy: rsmithsports@epbfi.com


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