FROM READERS: MU student sees future of equality after Michael Sam's announcement

Thursday, February 13, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CST

Daniel Shapiro is an MU journalism student. He is also vice president of the MU Quidditch team. This submission is excerpted from one of his blog posts.

When Michael Sam came out Sunday night, somehow, someway, my worst fears weren’t realized; the internet was actually responding positively to the news. Sure, there’s the Westboro Baptist Church’s protest this weekend. Sure, there are still people who throw around slurs and vitriol whenever they can. The difference is, well, my brother put it best:

“Those people used to be part of a crowd. Now they’re the minority.”

It’s just, for lack of a better term, amazing.

The people that keep asking “Why is this a sports story?” need to see the bigger picture. Sports has always been a reflection of society. There’s a reason why Jackie Robinson is cited as such a historic moment in the battle for civil rights. We still make big deals about Asian or Jewish basketball players based on their ethnicity. Doug Williams was Super Bowl MVP in 1988, and we still talk about black quarterbacks like they are an oddity.

The flip side is also true: We talk about Tim Tebow because of his religion, not because of his skills as a football player.

We’ve all heard the cringe-worthy thought process of “Oh, well, a gay player in a locker room will damage chemistry!” For some reason people like to paint a caricature of gay athletes as some type of locker room predator. That makes zero sense to me. Maybe it’s because I play quidditch, a co-ed sport where it’s more than likely you have two people dating on a team. I’ve seen plenty of heterosexual and homosexual couples throughout quidditch, sometimes on different teams, and it never seems to mess up the chemistry those teams have.

It makes sense to me. You’re spending all your time around these people so an attraction can develop, but it’s a mutual attraction. Yes, I’ve found myself flirting with girls from other teams, but that’s because there was some mutual attraction from both parties. It’s incredibly difficult to be attracted to someone you know won’t reciprocate it; I don’t find myself attracted to lesbian teammates or opponents, so I doubt Sam would find himself attracted to his heterosexual counterparts.

It's also why I can’t see how this will mess up team chemistry. In the NFL, we have players who are murderers get back on teams, players who participated in dog-fighting rings, players who have used racial slurs in public, etc. Generally, those haven’t been distractions, so why would a gay athlete be more of a distraction than those players or even Tim Tebow? It certainly didn’t affect the Missouri football team after Sam told them in August that he was gay. Hell, they had their best season ever.

So, call me crazy, but I view this as one of the biggest moments in history. Yes, we’ve had prominent gay celebrities and politicians, but the Big Four of American professional sports (the NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB) was the biggest remaining obstacle. In a sports culture, where homophobic slurs and degrading homosexuals seemed to be OK because “that’s just the way it is,” it seemed like gay athletes would never come out while still playing, opting to hide who they are and not be able to live their life freely. Now we have one. We have Sam.

With Michael Sam coming out, we’re one step closer to a world where black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, homosexuals and heterosexuals, will be able to join hands and sing.

And damn, if that isn’t a beautiful thought, I don’t know what is.

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.

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