As we discussed in Podcast #2, Missouri’s Michael Sam– 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year and projected high round NFL prospect– came out last week. A lot of the media coverage was positive, though there were packets of prejudice, including Sam’s own father. Yet despite the generally welcoming reaction to Sam’s affirmation, we in the ALTTAB Dome were still surprised by an editorial by Dale Hansen, a Dallas sportscaster for ABC affiliate WFAA, from February 10.
Though the entire piece is pretty amazing, probably the most important line was: “I’m not always comfortable when a man tells me he’s gay; I don’t understand his world. But I do understand that he is part of mine.” This kind of acceptance and tolerance– asserting that gays and lesbians are and deserve to be a part of the world– may indicate that we have crossed a threshold beyond which no one can publicly attack gays and lesbians without a figurative hood on their head. And though one Southern sportscaster does not a movement make, I can’t be the only one nonplussed seeing someone who looks and talks how Dale Hensen looks and talks saying the things that he said.
As we discussed in our article about the history of the Washington Redskins’ name, sports can allow us to have have conversations about some of the big issues in our lives without talking specifically about them. Hansen took full advantage of this in his opening bit, winking that the controversy surrounding Sam was that “the best defensive player in college football’s best conference” was projected to be “only a third to fifth round NFL pick.” Nothing can create cognitive dissidence in an SEC fan’s mind faster than implying that there is something wrong with anything associated with the SEC. And if that’s a bridge that helps some people embrace gay athletes, then I think its an effective one.
And though this may just be me, I do find it amusing and maybe fitting that US conservatives seem to be coming around on gay rights at pretty much the same time as Russian President Vladimir Putin has begun calling himself “World Conservatism’s New Leader,” patting himself on the back for,
“…resisting the global onslaught of multiculturalism, radical feminism, and homosexuality, all foisted upon an unsuspecting world by the “ideological populism of the left.””
If there’s anything conservatives ever loved, it was fighting Russians. (See: the Reagan Administration.) The USSR’s perceived atheism gave us “One nation under God” in the pledge of allegiance. Maybe the anti-gay crackdown in Russia will give us celebrated gay pro football players.