On February 14th of this year, Michael Sam made a guest appearance and spoke to a crowd of people at ASU to talk about his time in the NFL, him coming out, and him being black. If you do not know who I am talking about, Michael Sam was the first ever openly gay football player to be drafted into the NFL.
Even before the speech began, Michael sat amongst the crowd and talked to people one-on-one before he went to the podium to speak. He has one of those contagious and loud laughs that can be heard throughout the room. The room was full of people from all different backgrounds, but I think the majority was either from the LGBTQA+ community or African-American.
He began his speech saying that he recently celebrated his fifth year of coming out, which to me was a shock because I forgot that it was that long ago. I knew and frequently heard about this new up and coming possible NFL draft, and then also hearing that he was openly gay. I was shocked, but also very excited for him and for both communities.
I remember I was driving to high school and they made an announcement, or it was the topic of the day that this new player who was gay just got drafted into the NFL. At the time, I had friends who were part of the LGBTQA+ community but weren't out fully to the community and thinking that this would be a great moment for them to feel empowered and like they can be whoever they want to be.
Michael talked about what made it possible for him to be here today and he said, "Resilience, the ability to fall, pick yourself up, and continue on with your journey." He then discussed a dream he had the night before about himself being back in high school as a freshman and a teacher telling him to not be in his class (because he was gay) and to switch out of the class. In the dream, the teacher later called another student a faggot and Michael immediately fought the teacher. He related his dream back to reality by saying that in real life we need to take action but with words rather than physical violence. "If you see something, you MUST say something."
Michael also discussed his tragic upbringing with several of his siblings being killed, dying, drug-addicted, or gone missing. He also talked about how his father was never there and left when he was a little child. He explained that the father figures in his life were always his sports coaches. However, at the end of the day, football was his way to channel all of his energy and get away from his home life and do something productive in his life.
After Michael finished his speech, it went into questions and answers. One of the questions that asked was why we never saw him after he retired from the NFL. People in the crowd were saying how much they would love to see him in movies, and on TV being an inspirational speaker. He answered simply, "Because I dated a white guy." I and many others laughed at the remark, but then he went on to say that he was given backlash from both the gay community and the black community for dating a man outside of his own race.
To me as a biracial person, I understood part of the backlash that he faced. More often than not I don't always fall for someone of the same race as me or half of me to be more specific. But since I don't, I have often been asked why I don't go for black guys. To answer the question, I don't go after any particular race, but most black guys that I have fallen for remind me of my brother or my dad and that is just weird. Would you want to date someone who reminds you of a family member?
Back to Michael, I feel that him getting that much backlash to make him pretty much go underground after being in the NFL of all places is crazy to me. And for simply the fact of who he dated that he is not getting the attention that he should.
I wanted to end on the fact that he mentioned that he had fantastic dancing skills, as displayed with him on Dancing with the Stars. He also mentioned that he probably was a stripper in his past life because of how good of a dancer he is. All in all, it was a pleasure to meet him, and hear his story.