It's been a huge week for SB Nation blog Outsports. Last Sunday, they helped break the story of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam coming out as gay, virtually assuring that we will have the first openly gay player in the NFL during the 2014 season. Sam is thought to be a third- to fifth-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft and will be working hard at the NFL combine to improve his stock in the eyes of the NFL teams. Since his coming out, his story has dominated sports headlines along with the recent Ted Wells report on the Miami Dolphins Martin/Incognito saga, and in some ways those two stories end up being about the same thing. How will the NFL and the locker-rooms in the NFL handle having the first openly gay player?
Today, two of the biggest news shows on television (Face The Nation and This Week) decided to tackle that story and both of them reached out to Outsports' managing editor Cyd Zeigler. Cyd and Outsports were instrumental in breaking the Sam story and are viewed as authorities on the topic after documenting hundreds of stories on their blog of athletes coming out as gay. So when it came time for a player to do that in the NFL, Zeigler and Outsports were a natural spot for that to happen.
Below you can watch the videos and read the transcripts of Zeigler's interviews. SB Nation is so proud of Cyd Zeigler and the job he and Jim Buzinski do over at Outsports. They are the source for information about LGBT issues in sports, and are breaking news on a regular basis. Thanks Outsports!
George Stephanopoulos: Cyd, on this other question of how welcoming the league is going to be if he gets in, you know this Richie Incognito report out of Miami does reinforce the views of those who say this is going to be a hard fight.
Cyd Zeigler: Jim Buzinski and I at Outsports, we have written about over 200 athletes who have come out on their teams and publicly in every sport, including football, at every level, in every state of the country, and every single one of them say the same thing - before they came out they heard a lot of homophobia on the team, when they came out they were completely embraced by their team. This includes a football player at Middle Tennessee State, Alan Gendreau, who was out the entire four years he played at Middle Tennessee State. After they came out they are embraced by their teammates and the people who were most homophobic in the locker-room before they came out are the first guys to come up to them, shake their hand, and apologize for what they said. People get it and all this stuff about the horrors of the NFL locker-room is completely overblown.
George Stephanopoulos: This could be a very different situation from Jason Collins who was at the end of his career in the NBA but this could be a struggle.
Cyd Zeigler: Why is it that we in the media have brought this struggle to the story? There is no evidence that this is going to be a struggle. (GS interjection: Getting into the league?) Yeah, why is it going to be a struggle? Why would it be any more so than for anybody else? NFL teams, their whole goal is to get to the biggest media circus, the most distracting game of the entire season, the Super Bowl. And we're putting out there that some general manager is going to worry about a couple of cameras showing up at practice and asking a few questions. If a general manager and a coach can not handle a gay player in the locker-room, they should resign not because of social justice issues, but if that can torpedo your season, you're not doing your job.
Face The Nation
Bob Schieffer: Cyd Zeigler, you broke this story. Why is this a big story?
Cyd Zeigler: It's a big story because it's history. We've never had an openly gay player try to enter the NFL, or play in the NFL. There had been so much talk about how this would be impossible, last year I had media members betting me that what we are seeing unfold right now was literally impossible. That the front-offices and locker-rooms in the NFL weren't ready for it and we are seeing this unfold before our eyes. The NFL is ready for it, the fans are ready for it, America is ready for it, and the kids right now who are struggling with their sexual orientation - they're really ready to see this.
Bob Schieffer: Cyd, this is really a story that goes beyond sports which is why we're doing it on Face The Nation today, we normally concentrate on politics and things of that nature. How big a story do you thinks this is, I mean, for the culture? Is this a sign that things are changing, are we going to find out if they're changing or not, where do you put this?
Cyd Zeigler: I think this is arguably the most important coming-out in our culture's history. You look at when Ellen DeGeneres came out, that was hugely impactful and helped change the conversation. This is right there because of the power the NFL and football has, half of America calls football their favorite sport and I think that going forward what is amazing about this is Michael Sam himself. We're so focused on talking about a gay football player but we need to shift the conversation to Michael Sam. I've spent time with this guy, he is gregarious, he has a sense of humor, he's warm, he's engaging, he's going to be so successful in the locker-room and America is going to fall in love with his personality instead of looking at him as a gay football player. So I think that going forward this is super important and part of the reason is because of who the man is.