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Michael Sam was an All-American defensive player for the University of Missouri this past season. He was reportedly a team leader and respected by his coaches and teammates. One would think that would be an easy ticket into the NFL.

Wait a minute, though. Michael Sam has also come out as being gay. Suddenly, whether they admit it or not, NFL teams are looking at him in a different way as they contemplate the draft. Is his talent worth the media scrutiny that will come with having the first openly-gay player on an NFL team? Will the team sell more tickets, or will people not come to that team’s games because of it?

It’s really too bad that in 2014 we even have to ask these questions. Will a player help you win games? That is the only question that should matter outside of legal issues that could hinder the player’s progress.

When I was attending college in Winona, I distinctly remember sitting in the cafeteria with a group of friends when a gay rights organization was holding a peaceful demonstration outside. One of my friends grew angry and said that if he had his shotgun, he would be sorely tempted to use it. Looking back, I’m embarrassed by my initial response to this, laughing and going along with this hatred.

Let’s get the religion card off the table right away. My regular readers know that I’m not going to go along with, “The Bible says it’s wrong,” since I’ve referenced other rules the Bible lists which most of us don’t follow. The Bible also says to love thy neighbor as thyself, so I’ll choose that route.

I know some people who are homosexual, and I can’t think of any way that they are not upstanding citizens. Most of the people I know are former students. It’s really too bad that these people didn’t feel comfortable coming out while they were still here. Unfortunately, they were probably aware of the response they would get from too many people.

Every year, when my 8th graders work on persuasive writing, we work through some debate topics, trying to get kids to look at both sides of an issue. One of those topics in recent years has been gay rights. Many students respond negatively, bashing and hating on a group of people in large part because they’re uncomfortable with the concept. Listen, it’s not like I would be really comfortable either if I saw two homosexuals in an embrace, but I’m not overly comfortable watching two straight people in that situation either.

One of my stars this year, however, started her persuasive paper on gay rights this way: “Black people don’t deserve to be equal to us. They shouldn’t have the same rights. Now doesn’t that sound like something that should’ve been heard fifty years ago? It’s outdated and insensitive. That’s how people sound when they talk against same-sex couples.” I was floored by this great introduction to a well-written paper and am gratified she allowed me to use this quote this week.

And it’s perfectly stated! People in earlier times DID discriminate against other races (still do, unfortunately) and against women as well. Homosexuals are just the next group that in 50 years, we’ll look back and wonder why.

The producers of the hit ABC series Modern Family were ecstatic when gay marriage was approved in California because it meant they could hold a wedding for two of their main characters. That wedding will air this week and next week and be a major step on television in having people accept gay people as equals. Certainly, stars like Ellen DeGeneres have paved the way, and hopefully we are near a time when it’s not a big deal when someone who is gay is part of something big.

As to Michael Sam, the St. Louis Rams drafted him in the 7th round. Hopefully, within a few years, we’ll talk about Michael Sam, the football player, instead of Michael Sam, the gay football player.

Word of the Week: This week’s word is quiff, which means a tuft of hair brushed up above the forehead, as in, “The football player couldn’t wear a quiff during the season since his helmet always flattened it.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!

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