Networks Hail Gay Football Player Coming Out as 'Watershed Moment in American Sports'
After University of Missouri football player and NFL draft prospect Michael Sam came out as gay in interviews over the weekend, all three network morning shows on Monday veered into gay rights activism as they celebrated the announcement. [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
On CBS This Morning, co-host Norah O'Donnell described the development as "a potential watershed moment in American sports." Later on the show, fellow co-host Charlie Rose asked CBS Sports correspondent Jim Brown to confirm that it was a "watershed moment." Brown replied: "There's no question about that, Charlie, for sure. I think anytime you have a first in any segment of society, it's a watershed moment."
News reader Natalie Morales excitedly told viewers on NBC's Today: "...this is a really big deal in the world of sports this morning....this is really huge." Co-host Willie Geist declared: "This is a big deal. One of the biggest stars, the NFL perhaps to make history following on the heels of Jason Collins in the NBA."
On ABC's Good Morning America, co-host George Stephanopoulos proclaimed: "We're going to turn now to that ground-breaking news for the NFL. Likely to have its first openly gay player in the history of the league." In the report that followed, ESPN's Chris Connelly asserted: "Michael Sam is leading the way to a landmark moment in American sports..."
In addition to touting the possible "historic" implications of Sam joining the NFL, all three networks scolded anyone who might have reservations about how his sexual orientation would affect the locker room.
During the coverage on CBS, a sound bite played of New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma sharing an honest concern: "I think that he would not be accepted as much as we think he would be accepted. Imagine if he's the guy next to me and, you know, get dressed, naked, taking a shower, the whole nine, and it just so happens he looks at me, how am I supposed to respond?"
Later, co-host Gayle King asked Brown about those remarks: "Michael Sam may be ready but what are you hearing about how NFL players are feeling?" Brown responded: "That will be the kind of environment by and large that Mr. Sam, if he makes a team, will be walking into, a very macho environment, testosterone-laden, and players will be looking with raised eyebrows by and large for sure."
At the end of the NBC report, Geist mentioned: "You're already hearing some anonymous NFL sources saying, 'Well, he could be a distraction in the locker room with this new issue.'" Morales fretted: "Oh, no." Geist continued: "But he wasn't so much of a distraction for a team that played in the NCAA championship game, went 12 and 2, and won the Cotton Bowl this year." Morales added: "There you go, exactly. Well, it took a lot of courage to do what he did."
Similarly at the end of the ABC segment, news reader Josh Elliot lectured: "I do hope the world that he is entering is ready for him. And those thirty-two front offices as well." Openly gay co-host Robin Roberts predicted: "People are going to be watching that draft mighty close, yes they will."