Protests Against Michael Sam's First Dallas Cowboys Game Can't Ruin The History-Making Moment
Good news: On Sunday, Michael Sam could be the first openly gay player to play in an NFL game. Bad news: having signed with the Dallas Cowboys, Michael Sam is now facing protests from conservative Christian groups, who plan to picket the team's first game of the season against the San Francisco 49ers in Arlington, Texas on Sunday. And conservatives lobbyists aren't the only opposition Sam is facing; Twitter, as ever, has been voicing its complaints as well. The one silver lining in all of this is Sam's Cowboys teammates, who are judging him not by his sexual orientation but by his pass-rushing skills.
The protests will be led by Jack Burkman, who heads a group that calls itself "American Decency." According to Burkman's spokesperson, the group is made up of "like-minded individuals who feel that they need to come together and feel like they need to stand up for the deterioration of decency in American sports." (What's the point of a spokesperson if he can't form articulate, succinct statements?)
Burkman released a press release on Wednesday detailing the planned protest, which he claims will gather "thousands" outside AT&T Stadium. He also stated:
We cannot just stand idly by as Christian values and morals are trampled. We will do whatever we can to preserve family values in this country.... [Cowboys owner] Jerry Jones has betrayed American values, Christian values, and his own city’s values.... The Cowboys are no longer America’s team.
The document also claims Burkman's group has 3.62 million members in 41 states.
Side note: The American Decency Association posted on its website that though its members are also against gay rights and Sam's "lifestyle," it is not affiliated with Burkman or the protests against the Cowboys.
The Dallas Cowboys made history on Wednesday when it officially signed Sam to its practice squad after the defensive end passed a prerequisite physical. Last week, Sam was released by the St. Louis Rams even though he performed well in the preseason, pulling off three sacks. And before that, he struggled to find a team at all before finally being picked in the seventh and final round of the NFL draft, despite being a star defensive player for the University of Missouri. Many suspected that the reasoning, and obvious elephant in the room, was Sam's personal life, which some have callously called a "distraction" for the NFL.
What these people don't seem to realize is that the more they focus on his sexual orientation, the more they add to the fuss — something that the impending protests will only perpetuate. All of the commotion surrounding Sam is exactly why the NFL has been reluctant to draft its first openly gay player. Luckily, many people are calling B.S. on the whole entirely ridiculous "distraction" argument.
Meanwhile, Sam's fellow players have welcomed him to the team with one focus and one focus only: winning games.
When asked if Cowboys coach Jason Garrett had addressed the team about Sam, linebacker Justin Durant told reporters:
He's just going to come in and help the team, that's it, it's just football.
The coach himself also echoed that sentiment, telling NBC Sports:
This is about football. We evaluated him as a football player and felt like he could help us as a football player.
Perhaps quarterback Tony Romo said it best when answering the question that reporters can't seem to stop asking:
Everyone has different politics, religion, views on things, and I think what you find in the locker room is no one cares. It’s about can you help this football team win.
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