Gay athletes are a part of an ongoing social revolution

The nation, though it remains moderately conservative, is far more accepting of homosexuals in this day and age.

Now would be a perfect time for professional athletes identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender to let it be known to the world.

The revolution began when Jason Collins became the first openly gay basketball player in the NBA in April of 2013. As with any bold statement, his announcement created controversy, but also paved the way for others, including University of Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam.  

“When I got up there in front of my team, it was actually the first time I said the words, ‘I’m gay,’” Sam said after an August 2013 minicamp.

Actor Daniel Radcliffe had a lot to say about Sam in an Aug. 1 interview with OUT magazine. Radcliffe said the athlete was an inspiration because he never played the victim.

“I presume Michael Sam told the world he was gay so that when he was drafted, he could do that without having to think about it or hide it,” he said. “I think everybody else just hopes he does brilliantly this year, and that there’s going to be a list of quarterbacks who got sacked by a gay defensive end.”  

Sam was picked 34th in round seven of the 2014 NFL draft.

Twitter exploded with support from other professional athletes and fans.

Former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin tweeted “Congrats to my friend             @MikeSamFootball on being drafted by the #Rams. Always respected Coach Fisher. But this make me #LOVE Him. Thxs COACH.”

Former Chiefs linebacker Scott Fujita said Sam getting drafted was a major step forward for the LGBT community, and that Sam’s decision to face the nation as an openly gay athlete would spark change in the sport.

He tweeted, “Congratulations Michael Sam, Rams, NFL, everyone…this is a big moment in sports and beyond.”

Fujita was right. The movement that began with Collins last year as the first professional athlete to come out made it easier for the world to accept others who were previously afraid of being criticized for who they are.

Other notable athletes who have come out since Collins and Sam include University of Massachusetts shooting guard Derrick Gordon, former Oakland Raiders offensive tackle Kwame Harris and the No. 1 pick in the 2013 WNBA draft, Brittney Griner.

Eric Stonestreet, a Kansan who plays a homosexual man on ABC’s hit television series, “Modern Family,” told the Associated Press that before long, being gay and being famous is going to be commonplace.

“Times are changing,” he said. “And Jason Collins, Michael Sam and those guys who have come out are most definitely having an impact with society.

“It’s going to be considered common. It’s not going to feel taboo, and people are not going to feel they need to be closeted or keep their sexuality a secret because of other people’s opinions.”

Unfortunately, athletes and those in the public eye have a long way to go before America is going to fully accept their lifestyle.

In a recent poll by the Huffington Post, research showed that while 60 percent of football fans approved of their team hiring a gay player, 47 percent said it would be inappropriate for networks to show gay players kissing.

Those numbers show an unnecessary double standard, since many straight players are shown kissing their wives after winning a major sporting event.

This belief is something America needs to step away from.

Then there is the debate on whether it is fair for straight players to have gay players on their team. It is possible some heterosexual athletes are uncomfortable playing against or sharing a locker room with a homosexual player, but the reality is, there are gay people everywhere, including professional sports. It is unavoidable.

“There’s no way around it,” Stonestreet said. “There’s no doubt that it’s true, and anybody who doesn’t think there’s gay athletes in professional sports doesn’t understand basic society.”

It is all a matter of tolerance and respect, and it will be a topic that continues to be controversial until people realize that homosexuality is not a threat. America is giving in a little more each year, becoming more accepting of the LGBT community.

However, until the fact an athlete is gay is no longer breaking news and people do not even bat an eye at the information, the country is nowhere near where it needs to be. While we wait for America to become tolerant, let us enjoy the upcoming football season and focus on Sam’s play on the field and not his lifestyle choices.