ESPN Magazine Writer Scolds NFL Cowardice on Michael Sam, Redskins

January 7th, 2015 5:43 AM

In the January 5 edition of ESPN The Magazine, ESPN senior writer (or junior Keith Olbermann) Howard Bryant looked back at 2014 at alleged bigotry in the sports world. "Conservative front offices" wouldn't allow gay NFL player Michael Sam to stay employed, and Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder was exactly as racist as former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling:

Courage isn't always enough. Jason Collins began the Open Era for gay athletes in 2013, and 2014 heightened the tensions, the responsibilities and the stakes in that struggle when Michael Sam announced he is gay before the NFL draft. In the end, the arc he traveled gave me pause: Sam kissed his partner on national television. Sam was praised for his courage. Sam ended the year unemployed. As comforting as it'd be to believe that he did not make a team because there were better players, it will be interesting to see whether more gay players will be willing to come out before their roster spots are secure. Maybe Sam just wasn't good enough, but part of me believes kissing his partner made him an activist in the eyes of conservative front offices and not worth the risk. Maybe the NFL isn't as ready as it would like to believe.

It is still The People vs. The Power. If "I can't breathe" signaled the return of the athlete as citizen, the Not Your Mascot movement underscored the idea that change comes only through protest. Police unions in St. Louis and Cleveland unsuccessfully bullied players protesting police brutality, but Daniel Snyder all the while embodied enduring institutional control. His team nickname is racist. It is offensive. He should know this. He does not care. The Oklahoma City Public School Board voted to remove the 88-year-old Redskins nickname from Capitol Hill High School in 2014. Snyder did not yield.

The fight is nothing new. Change comes only through force, through the relentlessness of voice. If the name stays, Snyder will one day die joining George Preston Marshall, Tom Yawkey and Donald Sterling as owners forever known by history for their racist attitudes. Snyder thinks he's winning, but he's already lost.

A month ago, Howard applauded athletes "waking up" and jumping on the anti-police bandwagon after the Ferguson riots: "The awakening represents the arrival of the anti-Jordans, the athlete as a living, breathing, thinking citizen and not just a sneaker pitchman. If the aftermath of September 11 politicized the ballfield by valorizing American militarism, athletes after the non-indictments in Ferguson and New York now reject the public demand of shut up and play."