NPR blogger, Linda Holmes, wrote about a Sports Illustrated article that anonymously quotes (yeah, kind of an oxymoron) three NFL executives and coaches who shared their opinion on how Sam’s statement about being gay will affect him in the draft. But they didn’t stop there. They added commentary about “readiness” of the “man’s man game” to accept someone who is gay and being the team to “break the barrier” by signing him. Each representative of the “man’s man” kept his name private. Sports Illustrated said they were granted anonymity for their honesty. (Please see editing note below).
In Defining Masculinity Down: The ‘Man’s-Man Game’, Holmes effectively highlights the inconsistency of saying a man’s man game isn’t ready for gay players. Is it masculine to not take a stand? Is it masculine to turn your back on someone you once respected? Is it masculine to discriminate against someone out of fear? Not at my house, and that doesn’t change when the issue at hand is homosexuality.
Should I teach my sons that we value courage, honor, respect, love, honesty, responsibility, etc. EXCEPT when we’re talking about a gay person? I don’t think so. What if I’m in an NFL locker room? What if my religion teaches that homosexuality is wrong? No and no. In fact, if you’re part of a religion that values strong character, it should be a HUGE no. The measure of a man’s (or woman’s ) characters is in how he treats people who are different, on the other side of an issue, from an opposing party etc.
My boys are too young to understand sexual orientation, but they are not too young to recognize a double standard. As a dad, I can never get away with allowing unfair time, consequences, privileges, or treatment of any kind. I don’t think for a minute that they would miss it if they saw me showing a prejudiced discriminatory attitude toward a certain group. Once you start down that road, there’s no good way to stop. There’s no respectable way to say, “Well, it’s okay to mistreat or withhold rights from these people because they’re ____.”
I’m not saying that the guys quoted in the SI article are bad men. If being a dad has taught me anything, it’s that I’m not perfect and frequently don’t live up to my own expectations. We all deserve a break now and then, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t always strive to be real men and help our sons to do the same thing. Real men face what makes them feel uncomfortable. Real men talk to people that they don’t know. Real men learn about things they don’t understand. Real men stand up to bullies and admit it when they are wrong.
(Editing Note: I had previously written that I thought the men interviewed requested anonymity because they were “chicken.” I realized after listening to comments from others that I was being disingenuous by using that word. While the men interviewed were likely afraid of what would happen if their names were published, they probably had good reason to be. Anger, intolerance and vindictiveness exist on both sides of this issue. While the comments about masculinity called for further thought and discussion, I do not believe they were overtly intended to hurt others.)