There seems to be no end to the interviews of former NFL players who have come out [after their playing careers] in support of Sam. A number of current players in the NFL have voiced their support for him. Everyone talking about this young man’s courage. Sam is quoted as saying, “I just wanted to own my own truth.” In other words, I am not going to hide who I am while playing at the next level. Courage is a mild word for what he has chosen to do because it may well effect his value in the meat market place of the machismo dominated National Football League.
But you can read that elsewhere. What I want to say here is something more personal about this coming out party for this young man. Anyone who makes this type of major decision where he knows full well it is going to be controversial needs to know he has support from his friends and family. Someone who has his back regardless of the outcome. When Sam’s father learned from him that he was gay he told the New York Times, “I couldn’t eat no more, so I went to Applebee’s to have drinks. I don’t want my grandkids raised in that kind of environment. I’m old school. I’m a man-and-a-woman type of guy.”
I am not sure exactly what it was that hit me wrong. Maybe it was just that he felt he had to express it publicly to the world. Maybe I felt that he felt that he was somehow defending himself. I am just not sure but it screamed “wrong.” I have a son and a daughter and if either of them made that declaration my first thought would not be to go have a drink, unless everyone was going. My first thoughts would be: are you okay? Are you happy? My first thoughts would be and always will be for the well being of my children.
I’m not saying that it wouldn’t catch me off guard, but never would I be less than proud of either of my children. Perhaps we do not always agree on everything, and we do not, but under all circumstances I am there for them. Even if that had been my son and I disapproved, it would be between he and I, not the rest of the world. The bond between a father and his children is something that is sacred in my eyes, even when the child is wrong. The father stands with his child through thick and thin.
As some might think, there are children who do things so horrible they are not worth caring about. I disagree. I remember an interview with Jeffery Dahmer with his father present. As Dahmer answered questions his father did not deny his son or his love for him but, like everyone else, wanted to know why his son did what he did. Dahmer himself volunteered for any experiments to understand what caused him to commit such horrible crimes.
Michael Sam’s father may still care about his son, but to me he betrayed that special bond by publicly denouncing him. I hope for the sake of both that one day they can reconcile as this has nothing to do with football and everything to do with the real life story of two men.
Thanks to the New York Times for story contributions.