These past few days have been filled with debate and discussion about Michael Sam being a distraction.
Some prognosticators have argued that there are NFL teams that will pass on the SEC Defensive Player of the Year because he has announced publicly he's gay. Some pundits have predicted that the likely media circus and the possible locker room strain that could accompany Sam might actually keep any NFL team from drafting him.
Let me get this straight — franchises that regularly welcome players who've been arrested, charged and sometimes even convicted of crimes as well as guys who've done and said things that are racist and sexist and bigoted and all kinds of unseemly will find a player's sexual orientation too much to handle?
I don't buy it.
“Distraction” sounds like a nice way of saying, “We don't want an openly gay player, but we can't say that.”
Distraction might be to homosexuality what the word thug is to race.
The latter of those two words got thrown around a lot a couple weeks ago. Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman turned a postgame, on-field interview into a verbal smackdown of San Francisco receiver Michael Crabtree, and his unsportsmanlike behavior caused lots of people to label Sherman a thug.
Sherman took issue with that term during a press conference a few days after his rant.
“The reason it bothers me is because it seems like it's an accepting way of calling somebody the N-word now,” he said. “It's like everybody else said the N-word and then they say ‘thug' and that's fine.”
Maybe thug has become an N-word substitute.
But when it comes to Michael Sam being a distraction, it's hard to imagine that who someone is attracted to is any more of a distraction than a player who pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter after driving drunk and having an accident that killed a woman. Or a player who pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter after hitting and killing a male pedestrian. Or a player who pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in connection with a murder. Or a player who ran a dog fighting ring in his backyard and spent nearly two years in federal prison.
Leonard Little, Donte' Stallworth, Ray Lewis and Michael Vick remained employed by NFL teams after those incidents.
And goodness knows, lawbreakers aren't the only ones who have been on the payrolls.
Last year, the Chargers actually did a deal to move up in the second round of the draft so that they could be sure to get Manti Te'o. He of the fake girlfriend hoax brought with him one of the biggest media hoards of all time, but it didn't scare off San Diego.
Then, there's Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin. Both of the Miami players at the center of the bullying story that became the biggest off-field drama last season have uncertain futures. Martin left the Dolphins, and Incognito is on indefinite suspension.
But who among us thinks that neither will be employed next season?
I have a feeling that both will be cashing NFL paychecks even though you have to think media attention and locker room strife could follow them wherever they land.
So, distractions like that are acceptable but distractions like Michael Sam are not?
By the way, if you're thinking Michael Sam will seek the spotlight, you might want to think again. This past season at Missouri, Sam dodged reporters every bit as adeptly as offensive linemen. Even as he was having the best season of his career, he spent a vast majority of it avoiding interviews because he didn't want to distract from what the team was doing.
Hardly sounds like a publicity hound to me.
Sam came out not because of the attention it would bring but because of the freedom. He began telling small groups of teammates at Missouri that he was gay two years ago. Then, during a preseason get-to-know team-building activity last fall, he let the whole team know — and played as well as he's ever played.
One teammate and close friend told The New York Times that Sam had finally loosed himself a big boulder off his back.
Now, even though the players and coaches at Missouri deserve a great deal of credit, it was not nirvana in Columbia. In a tweet Sunday night, Tigers tight end Eric Waters made reference to players who spoke ill of Sam behind his back this past season.
It wasn't all smooth sailing.
And it won't be in the NFL.
But it's lunacy to think Sam would be more of a distraction than any of the lawbreakers and knuckleheads already in the league's locker rooms.
Lest anyone out there wants to argue that Tim Tebow isn't playing in the NFL only because teams think his staunch Christian beliefs are a distraction, I have one question for you — have you seen him throw a football? That is the main reason why Tebow isn't playing in the NFL.
Throwing the ball straight is important if you want to play in the NFL.
Being straight shouldn't be.
Jenni Carlson can be reached at 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.