There was a lot of hullabaloo last week over Michael Sam, who, after being drafted in a late round by the St. Louis Rams, is poised to become the NFL’s first openly gay football player. Sam was the SEC defensive player of the year, so a chance to play in the NFL seems well merited, regardless of his sexual orientation. Some groused that Sam was picked low in the draft because of discrimination, but the fact is that Sam made a poor showing at the league’s scouting combine.
The Scrapbook wishes Sam all the best in his professional career. However, we were hoping, probably foolishly, that the drama surrounding Sam would be contained on the field. That’s not going to happen. Sam has already signed a contract to do a reality TV show on OWN—the Oprah Winfrey Network. The average NFL career is nasty, brutish, and short, so we can understand a player grabbing cash where he can. Still, we hope Sam can go out and prove his own abilities rather than get caught up answering detractors or trying to determine his overall significance to the sport.
Already we’re seeing signs Sam is causing consternation in the league. After Sam was drafted, he kissed his boyfriend on television. Miami defensive back Don Jones tweeted that the sight was “horrible,” and so he’s now being shipped off to sensitivity training, which strikes us as overkill. We understand that this kind of sanction is not remotely a First Amendment issue. Jones is being paid a lot of money by his team, and the way the Dolphins wish to present themselves publicly is tied to his paycheck. But there is a big difference between free speech as a legal issue, and a culture in which people are free to speak their mind. Many people pushing the tolerance agenda do not seem to know the difference.
Sadly, writers at the Washington Post don’t even know the actual meaning of the word tolerance. Appearing on MSNBC—where else?—columnist Jonathan Capehart had this to say about Sam’s critics:
Tolerance, no, is not—it should not be a two-way street. It’s a one-way street. You cannot say to someone that who you are is wrong, an abomination, is horrible, get a room, and all of those other things that people said about Michael Sam, and not be forced—not forced, but not be made to understand that what you’re saying and what you’re doing is wrong.
Is it amusing or depressing that Capehart doesn’t even realize he’s arguing for coercion of people whose opinions are incorrect? Once Capehart lets the mask slip, his halfhearted attempt to back up and argue that being “made to understand” is somehow more benign than being “forced” doesn’t really help.
Being “made to understand” whatever rich NFL owners and liberal columnists think is correct is not a project that will end well. Before our culture of free speech is completely ablated, we only hope that people can somehow be made to care.