After the news broke Sunday evening that Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam is gay, Sports Illustrated published an article with the opinions of several anonymous NFL executives who said his decision to come out might hurt his NFL prospects. One said he doesn’t think football is ready for a gay player, and another said having a gay player in the locker room would be a big distraction.
But it wasn’t a problem this past season at MU, where the Tigers finished ranked fifth in the country even after Sam told them he was gay at the beginning of the season.
Struby Struble is the coordinator of the LGBTQ Resource Center at MU. She said it worked at MU because of the school’s approach.
“They’ve been working for a long time on LGBT inclusion and making sure all their players felt supported,” she said. “They weren’t shocked, they know that LGBT people exist.”
Struble said a lot of the negative speculation in the NFL comes down to society’s stereotypes about LGBT people, and she said she thinks Sam’s news will be a huge step toward breaking those stereotypes down.
“We know at a university setting that LGBT people are happy, healthy positive contributions to society and that there’s not anything wrong with being LGBT,” she said. “All the research and studies and blah blah blah shows that. And so I think that the NFL can quickly catch up.”
Struble said there will be a learning curve, and that sports is a stronghold of negative LGBT stereotypes. But she said she doesn’t think there will be anything but positive moving forward.
Struble said that for Sam to come out has large implications, including helping to break down stereotypes about LGBT people and the stereotype that sports can’t get past it.
“By having an out player and by having so much support from teammates and administration, it really shows that, you know, there’s so much support out there and there are so many supportive people,” she said. “And while there’s still more work to do, I’m so proud of our university for showing so much support and pride in such a great Tiger. You know, we do support all Tigers.”