COMMENTARY | Newsflash: There are homophobes who play and work within professional sports.
There is not a single part of me that could possibly care about what activities to-be NFL rookie defensive lineman and the Associated Press SEC Defensive Player of the Year Michael Sam participates in when not on the football field so long as he doesn't break any laws. I understand the significance of Sam announcing to the world on Sunday that he is gay. I applaud his bravery, but I also long for the day when any pro sports personality making such a statement won't be news.
Not everybody, of course, feels the same way on the topic, and it is not, as some would have you believe, a NFL problem. Grab a field level seat for any sport - NBA, MLB, NHL, even MLS - and there's a chance that you'll hear a player or a fan yell out a homosexual slur. There's no defending it, but it also shouldn't be ignored.
People aren't going to change their minds overnight. Someone who wouldn't on Sunday morning have applauded his favorite football team drafting a gay player likely won't do so in May. Pretending that isn't the case does no service to anybody.
The reactions those within the fan base of the Cleveland Browns would have to the team drafting Sam would, like the fan base itself, be mixed. This is the real world and not a made-up one where everybody gets along with everybody else, and the truth of the matter is that there are unquestionably Cleveland fans out there who would be appalled by the Browns drafting an openly gay player.
Sam would have at least a few new friends in the Cleveland locker room on day one were the Browns to select him in the draft. Offensive lineman Jason Pinkston Tweeted out the following on Monday morning: "If you can play football you can who cares about what you believe in or you're personal life give back to the community make plays be humble."
Speak with any knowledgeable person on the matter, and he/she will tell you that there are absolutely gay players on NFL rosters right now. They simply choose to not out themselves for whatever reasons. This idea that Sam will not find a home in professional football before August is going to become more and more ludicrous as the 2014 NFL Draft approaches.
Cleveland not drafting Sam, if they don't, would be an understandable football decision. The offense of the Browns has some real play-makers, but it also needs a lot of help. Odds are that the front office of the Browns will go offense with at least their first three picks. Quarterback, running back, offensive lineman and wide receiver; Cleveland needs one of each.
Sam may not even be on the board when the Browns first seriously consider taking a defensive player in the draft. Even if he was, Cleveland is likely to pick a talented and available linebacker, maybe even two, ahead of a pass rusher. I can't envision the Browns spending any of their first five picks on Sam or on a similar player.
There is also a real chance that those running the Browns will not want to subject a new coaching staff and a squad that went 4-12 last season to the unavoidable media circus that will descend upon the team that signs Sam. Rumors swirled last fall that Cleveland didn't consider working free agent Tim Tebow out when the Browns desperately needed a quarterback in October because of the hoopla that comes with Tebow being a NFL player.
Sam could be taken in the third round if he blows some team away through workouts and impressive interviews. On the other hand, he could very well fall to the final day of the draft if the opposite occurs. The latter happening is the only scenario in which I can envision the Browns acquiring Sam. Cleveland would be a perfect example of a team passing on Sam for the right reasons.
Zac has been following Cleveland sports since a little before his birth, and thus his heart breaks a little more with every year. He has been covering the Cleveland Browns, New York Giants and the NFL for Yahoo Sports since 2010.
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