I'll be the first to admit that coming out is not an easy decision. Whether you're living in Smallville, USA or riding the high of being the first openly gay NFL Player like Michael Sam, there are risks and perks to coming out. Some anticipated, others that sneak up and slap in you in the face when least expected.
As Michael's story unfolds in the public eye, I can't help but wonder, "What's wrong with coming out as a public figure?" Of course I quickly answer that question with a resounding "Nothing!" Yet, I can't help but feel tugs of sympathy for Michael, his boyfriend, family and friends, as his life begins to play out on the field of his life. Granted, he's allowed some of this to play out in a bigger way. I get that. It's no different than when I appeared on the "Ricki Lake Show" as a guest expert on coming out. You make a conscious decision to share your life with the public for all to see and criticize.
Of course, I don't believe there is anything wrong with coming out on a grand scale. It wasn't about me being on a national talk show, meeting Ricki Lake or using this opportunity to catapult my business to new heights. My journey to be more public came from two places: 1) to be of service, 2) to educate and 3) to break down barriers so love can blossom. To that end, I'm now questioning:
"What's wrong with Michael Sam Coming Out?"
- He's contributing to the demise of the NFL by stripping away the masculinity associated with the sport? Absolutely not! If anything, his open display of kissing his boyfriend and landing a documentary of his journey on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) should inspire other people to live their most authentic life, even if it means risking your career and being pummeled by public opinion.
- He's making his teammates and other NFL players uncomfortable in the locker room and on the field. Last time I watched a football game, the most successful wins were due to players thinking about plays from different angles. If Michael's coming out is making others uncomfortable, the question becomes, "Who is that really about? Them or Michael?" No one can make anyone else feel uncomfortable. It is a personal choice to feel uncomfortable, just as it is to feel comfortable.
- If he's been dishonest about this, what else has he been hiding? Really? Everyone has things hidden in our closets that we don't want other people to see. Just because someone has chosen to hide their sexual orientation doesn't make them dishonest or lacking integrity, it just means that they have chosen to keep aspects of their life private.
- He's making young boys minds believe it's OK to be gay. And what kind of impact is the message that you should hide who you really are having on our children? The more we teach the next generation that it's acceptable and preferred to pretend to be something we're not, the more we perpetuate the idea that lies are acceptable.
- He's a weak link! Let's do the math. An NFL team is permitted to have 53 active players on their roster at any given time. On game day, 46 of the 53 are allowed to dress out for the game. Now I'm not a raving football fan, but I've watched enough games to know that not all 46 players are going to play. I've also watched enough games and listened to the commentaries to know that many a player, Quarterbacks included, have been called "The weak link!" Yet, in all those commentaries and games, not once has someone said, "He's a weak link because he just got divorced," or "He's not doing his best today because he was caught sleeping with his mistress." Are we really going to make this part of the conversation? Is Michael going to get blamed because Sam Bradford is too distracted by the presence of a gay man in the locker room? Every team has weak links and weak players. Until the weakness is identified, don't blame it on the gay player.
So again I ask, "What's wrong with Michael Sam Coming Out?"
Nothing whatsoever. In fact, hopefully he inspires others to follow his example and stop being afraid of living authentically. If an NFL player can do it, so can you.
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