Making waves in the US news this past week was Michael Sam, likely prospect for the National Football League’s upcoming draft – if selected, he will become the first openly gay player in the NFL’s history. Sam’s coming out has sparked discussions in the States about masculinity and the frequent use of homophobic slurs in training. While the unbelievable amount of prejudiced comments on a YouTube clip of Sam’s interview with the New York Times left me with my head in my hands (a few highlights include: “No wonder why the black community is in disarray. There are no real men to be husbands, fathers and leaders anymore. How sad” and “Football is a very violent game, when the sodomite bleeds he might transfer HIV or Aids to his teammates…I know I wouldn’t play on a team with this sodomite on it. No chance.”), news anchor Dale Hansen thankfully hit the nail on the head with his straightforward coverage of the story. Speaking about the double-standard of accepted masculinity in the NFL, Hansen says, “You beat a woman and drag her down a flight of stairs, pulling her hair out at the roots – you’re the fourth guy taken in the NFL draft…Players caught in hotel rooms with illegal drugs and prostitutes – we know they’re welcome. Players accused of rape and pay the woman to go away…we’re comfortable with that. You love another man – well, now you’ve gone too far.”
I know nothing about American Football and I’ve never been particularly interested in it. But I am interested in masculinities and, with 111.5 million people watching the last Super Bowl, that’s a lot of people being fed messages about ‘acceptable’ ways of being a man. No doubt Sam’s story will soon disappear from the news soon, regardless of if he is drafted or not, but I hope that some people out there keep the conversation going because, if YouTube comments are anything to judge by, it’s a conversation that needs to be had.