S.L. Price on Michael Sam, gay athletes and the future of the NFL

For my next project, I’ve decided to repurpose a Daily story I did in February about gay athletes in college athletics and the culture that surrounds the issue. This issue has taken a national stage over the past few years and especially in the past eight months, since former Missouri football player Michael Sam came out as gay following a breakout season as Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Sam was later drafted, cut and then signed to another team’s practice squad. But this issue has roots much deeper than last February, as athletes and teams have shaped a culture for years.

For the Daily story, I had to keep my audience in mind: people interested in Michigan issues, mostly students. For this reason, I framed my story around the experiences of three gay former Michigan athletes. For this project, I would want to have a broader scope, stretching over a longer time period and certainly a much larger area. I would seek to involve not just Michigan but Sam and many others who have faced his conflict: how far this issue has come, where it is now and where it goes from here. I would likely also base it off of overall climate and analysis rather than anecdotes.

The NFL hasn't seen much of the effects of Michael Sam's young career, but more like him are on the horizon.
The NFL hasn’t seen much of the effects of Michael Sam’s young career, but more like him are on the horizon.

A good starting point comes to mind. On Feb. 17, 2014, S.L. Price wrote in Sports Illustrated (full story not available online) about Michael Sam’s journey and the environment he would soon enter into as an NFL player. As a top college talent, there was little doubt Sam would either be drafted or end up on a team’s practice squad by the end of the summer, making him the first openly gay player in NFL history. The cover ran with a photo of Sam, the header “America is ready for Michael Sam” and the subheader “Is the NFL ready for Michael Sam?” Historically, sport has been a starting point, or at least a catalyst, for social change. In the 1940s, Jackie Robinson debuted in the Major Leagues and had an illustrious career long before blacks and whites were even required to go to school together. Price did great reporting by going inside NFL franchises and taking the temperature of a league that has long upheld a masculine, competitive locker-room culture. Because I want to frame my essay from a more overall standpoint, this is a good piece of reference.


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