Tuesday, February 11, 2014

No. Michael Sam Is Not Rosa Parks.

It's Black History Month, which is a nice way of saying it's time when those of us with kids have to do help them with school projects. My 5 year old had the task of creating a presentation on Rosa Parks, which means we've spent quite a bit of time learning about the civil rights pioneer. We even created a movie for the occasion. No, seriously.

All together now... awwwwwww.

Since Rosa Parks has been on my mind a lot the past few weeks as we've cut out photos, read library books, and scoured Youtube for kid-friendly videos (we made the one above, mostly because there aren't any. Not because it's the assigment). While there was quite a bit more orchestration (Parks was secretary of the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP and the chapter considered her a good candidate to take such a stand) behind Parks act of civil disobedience, it was still quite the act of courage for a 42 year old seamstress. She would be arrested for her sit-in, and even after the laws were changed following the ensuing 1 year boycott, Parks became completely unemployable, eventually fleeing to Michigan where she worked for Congressman John Conyers. In short, she took a potentially dangerous action, knowing that her life would likely never be the same as a result. That, my friends, is heroism and courage.

Michael Sam, while courageous, is no Rosa Parks, as some who engage in hyperbole are saying of his decision to "come out" before the upcoming NFL draft.

I applaud Sam's decision to "own the story" and announce his sexual orientation prior to the scouting combine. He takes an issue that was rumored off the table, and in an odd way, probably boosts his personal Q-Rating a million points in the process. I mean, has any other potential 3rd round linebacker prospect gotten shoutouts from the FLOTUS and POTUS? Nah. Sam could have talked around the issue when teams scout him, but by going public, he's making those interviews about little other than football. An openly gay player in the first media market is prolly gonna be in huge demand, sell a shitload of jerseys, and be the smiling, happy face of "NFL tolerance". Any teammate, opponent, or commentator who says anything sideways about Sam's sexual orientation is gonna get blasted, prolly making dude a Tim Tebow like folk hero in the process. I'm not saying this is a come up, but... well, it's a come up.

What it's not is anything even remotely in the same stratosphere as Parks refusing to give up her seat, or Jackie Robinson breaking the MLB color barrier. Not even close. It's just a guy who happens to like guys, playing a sport with guys who like girls. Something that's probably been happening for years now, but ain't eeen know it. Word to Jason Collins.

Not all "firsts" are equal folks. Enough already.

Question: Is Sam the next Jackie Robinson, or merely the first gay linebacker that we actually know about?

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