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|Michael Sam's boyfriend stood by him when he got the news that the St. Louis Rams were drafting him.|
The headlines say it all:
"Get to know Lindsey Duke, the star of the NFL Draft." (FoxSports.com)
"Katherine Webb, Lindsey Duke highlight Top 10 NFL Draft WAGs (Photos)." (NESN.com)
"2014 NFL Draft WAGs: Hot and Sexy Edition." (YardBarker.com)
"Meet Kacie McDonell--The SEC's Newest QB Heartbreaker." (FoxSports.com)
"Forget about the players as 2014 is the year of the NFL WAGs." (DailyMail.co.UK)
In the months leading up to the draft, the Internet was abuzz over the lovely ladies attached to some of college football's best players. Rare was the sports site that didn't have some sort of photo gallery of NFL draft wives and girlfriends (WAGs), along with whatever info they could scrounge up on them via social media.
|Katherine Webb has earned lots of TV time as AJ McCarron's girlfriend.|
Never mind that these women will never play a down in the NFL, their connection to someone who might (along with their gorgeous bikini bodies) make them worthy of front-page "news" on "sports" sites.
The ladies stole the pre-draft hype, but by the end of Day 3, it wasn't Webb or Duke earning the headlines, it was Michael Sam's boyfriend, Vito Cammisano. No "Hot and Sexy" photo galleries for Cammisano, though. The talk was all about a kiss shared by the former University of Missouri swimmer and his newly drafted boyfriend. While many found the moment to be touching and inspiring, some complained about the behind-the-scenes look at the couple's celebration.
"I'm sorry but that Michael Sam is no bueno for doing that on national tv," tweeted former Super Bowl champion Derrick Ward. "But for real though most of u need to read the bible. It'll explain a lot in that book. #knowledge."
"Horrible" and "omg" tweeted Miami Dolphins safety Don Jones, who has since been disciplined by the team for his comments.
"I don't call it a moment of celebration," said Amy Kushnir, before walking off the set of the Dallas TV show she co-hosts. "It's being pushed in faces. I wanna say get a room. I don't want to see that."
Fox News host Bill O'Reilly called the coverage of Sam's kiss "a dog and pony show" and said "the gay thing is way overplayed and it's annoying."
Many fans reacted negatively, as well.
"@jrichhh19: I'm not watching @espn until the Michael Sam story dies. It's gross. I'm not tryna watch 2 dudes kiss on a sports show."
"@Nicolai60: I don't have a problem with Sam being day. Be gay. I have a problem with ESPN showing Sam kissing his bf 5,492 times."
"@EvanJ34: I don't want to see Michael Sam kissing his bf, I want to see Bortles and his piece."
So months of leering at AJ McCarron's fiancee and endless bikini pics of Blake Bortles' girlfriend are welcome, but a few moments of Sam with his significant other constitutes "a dog and pony show?" A kiss between Sam and Cammisano is an over-the-top affront to morality, but the McCarron-Webb on-the-field, post-game kisses we saw so often were sweet?
The double-standard isn't surprising, but it is unfair.
The wives and girlfriends featured on HBO's "Hard Knocks" get nearly as much screen time as the players they're dating. Eric Decker and his wife Jessie James have a reality show on E!, and McCarron and Webb are in talks with networks to televise their upcoming wedding. And beyond that, Webb has earned tons of TV time as McCarron's lady -- she was a Super Bowl correspondent for "Inside Edition," a contestant on the celebrity diving show "Splash" and a model in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.
McCarron and Webb haven't been accused of overexposure or of shoving their relationship in people's faces, but a few kisses during an emotional moment have prompted people to accuse Sam of making his selection about being gay and not about football. Sam isn't shoving his sexuality in people's faces any more than any player who has smooched his gal after hearing his name called in the draft or embraced his girlfriend after a big win.
For many, it seems Sam's gayness is OK as an abstract, but actually seeing Sam be gay is bothersome. Bortles and his "piece" can kiss all they want, but Sam and Cammisano should abstain.
Accusations that Sam is "overplaying" the "gay thing," will likely get louder after Wednesday's announcement that the start of his NFL journey will be documented in six to eight episodes for Oprah Winfrey's OWN Network. The cameras won't be inside Rams facilities, but fans will get access to Sam's private life as he fights for a roster spot -- and no doubt Cammisano will be there alongside him the whole way.
We don't yet know how the show will be received by NFL players, coaches or fans, or how it might affect Sam's chances of making the Rams, but we can say with almost certainty that it will do big things for young, gay Americans who need a role model.
The broadcast of Sam and Cammisano kissing on draft day was a historic moment, not only for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, but for the NFL and pro sports. More ground will be broken with the upcoming OWN series and its look at Sam's bid to make more history.
It may be more comfortable for America to watch McCarron and Webb swap rings and do the chicken dance than watch Sam and Cammisano face the inevitable challenges that await them, but this country's journey toward equality isn't about being comfortable.
I'd take a story about a young athlete who was inspired to live his truth over another bikini gallery any day of the week.