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Michael Sam #52 of the Missouri Tigers reacts after Ben Grogan #19 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys misses a 34-yard field goal in the second quarter during the AT&T Cotton Bowl on January 3, 2014 in Arlington, Texas.
We live smack dab in the middle of the Bible Belt, where the conservative vocal majority staunchly believes you’re not a real man unless you eat red meat seven days a week, drive a pickup and remain beholden to the holy matrimony between one man and one woman. Oh, and also that you must revere the macho sport of football.
So with this weekend’s “coming out” of gay NFL draft prospect Michael Sam I wonder: Are fans of the Dallas Cowboys ready to support an openly gay player?
I’d like to answer yes. But I’m afraid Sam landing in Dallas would come with more homophobic backlash than any other NFL city.
Alternative sexual orientation and the Biblical decries against it are preached in DFW on Sundays and then repeated and spread and lived throughout the week. As a guy who has a gay younger brother, trust me, “coming out” in the Metroplex isn’t something celebrated on ESPN, but more akin to a tattooing of the dreaded Scarlet Letter on your forehead and your career.
There’s such a bias against gays in this area that some homophobes will knee-jerk to Sam’s revelation with a snide, shallow joke about how the Missouri star hails from Hitchcock, Texas. Then they'd deteriorate into punch lines about gays and Cowboys and Brokeback Mountain.
The question should be: Can he play? The question shouldn’t be: Why is he gay?
Sam was a stud in college. The Defensive Player of the Year in the SEC, better known as the best football league in America. He’s projected as a mid-round draft pick, so the Cowboys would have at least a couple chances to select him.
And no doubt Sam has the skills to help the Cowboys. He played defensive end at Mizzou. But at 6-foot-1, 260 pounds, is more built to play linebacker in the NFL. If you’ve watched the record-setting defense and the likes of Brady Poppinga, Dan Connor, Cameron Lawrence and Ernie Sims the last two years, God knows they could use the help of a play-maker, regardless of position.
While a majority of fans will ignore Sam’s lifestyle as long as he can help the Cowboys win, you don’t have to squint too hard to see trouble. Pickets outside Valley Ranch and AT&T Stadium by fans who find homosexuality disgusting and abhorrent and sinful. And, in an area that long ago married football and religion and boasts the hole in the roof so God can watch his favorite football team, Sunday sermons condemning the Cowboys for hiring such a heathen.
In San Francisco or Seattle or Denver, Sam would be welcomed with open, liberal arms. But in DFW, Jerry Jones has to seriously consider Sam’s gay pronouncement before drafting him.
Because in our narrow-minded, Bible-Belt society reluctant to evolve along with most of America’s mindset, I think the Cowboys could actually lose fans by drafting the “wrong” player.
A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He currently writes a sports/guy stuff blog at DFWSportatorium.com and lives in McKinney with his wife, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.