University of Missouri DE Michael Sam was selected by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft this past week. Normally such a pick draws little more spotlight than the name of said draftee being flashed across the bottom of a TV screen while the "draft experts" pontificate. Obviously this draft pick was different due to the fact that Sam announced earlier this year that he is a homosexual. As such, he would be the first openly gay active NFL player should he make the Rams' roster.
At the top of Monday's exchange, Lauer observed: "Back in February, Michael Sam said, 'I wish people could see me as Michael Sam the football player, not Michael Sam the gay football player.' Based on the attention and coverage we've seen since the third day of the draft, we're a ways away from that.'It would be fair to say that the NFL has lagged behind society as a whole when it comes to allowing openly gay participants. But since that breakthrough has finally occurred, I find it puzzling that Lauer seemed almost surprised at how Sam's draft status was being covered. Again, Sam is the first openly gay player to be selected in the NFL draft. Like it or not, that is the predominate story line until, as Lauer also pointed out, other gay NFL prospects emerge. And when that happens I'd like to think we'll be past the point where those aspiring NFLers feel they have to make a public declaration of their homosexuality.
Personally I can tell you that my reaction to video footage of a very emotional Sam receiving the call he would be drafted was the same as when #1 overall selection Jadeveon Clowney had his name announced. That reaction was one of me getting choked up as I witnessed both young men shed tears of joy upon the realization of a lifelong dream coming that much closer to fruition. At that point, their respective off-field lives were barely an afterthought, which I'm certain is exactly how both players (particularly Sam) preferred it.