In light of the upcoming NFL Draft on May 8, former University of Missouri standout defensive end Michael Sam is widely considered to be the first openly gay male athlete to get drafted and play in the NFL. Furthermore, Sam was the first openly gay male athlete to come out in the NCAA.
Sam will follow Jason Collins who, on Feb 23, 2014, became the first publicly gay male athlete to play in one of the four major North American pro sports leagues when he signed a contract with the Brooklyn Nets.
In women’s athletics, tennis legend Billie Jean King has been a vocal activist for lesbian athletes since 1981. Additionally, former Baylor star Brittany Griner — conceivably the greatest female college basketball player of all time — has come out. Griner, now a center in the WNBA, is a leading activist for anti-bullying and a prominent figure in LGBT movements.
Until recently, speculation has always been mum on whether or not athletes would come out in professional sports. Together, Collins and Sam have dented the stereotypical male-dominated culture that is believed to have suppressed openly gay athletes previously.
At Missouri, it is believed that Sam was openly gay well before he notified the media. Sam’s teammates made it a point to keep his sexuality within the locker room and far from a distraction. Sam’s teammates and classmates embraced him around campus, and Sam has since become an advocate for gay athletes around the world.
This then leads to the question, is UTSA ready for an openly gay athlete?
In recent weeks, there has been tension around campus in regards to openly gay students.
Many members of the LGBT organization on campus have reported feeling unsafe and disturbed by different religious organizations on campus.
While progress is being made around the country in regards to sexual equality, why then does UTSA lag behind?
The UTSA Student Handbook of Operating Procedure outlines that students should not be discriminated against based on gender, sexuality, age, race and religion etc.
Despite this, students continue to create tension amid protests that foster an undeniable and unnecessary anxiety at a campus that should be welcoming for any and all scholars.
This is not to say UTSA as a whole discriminates against LGBT organizations, but progress must be made before an athlete can come out — without trepidation — as openly gay.
If UTSA wishes to achieve its many academic goals, it must first work on creating an atmosphere that is acceptable for students regardless of gender, sexuality, age, race or religion. UTSA should not allow organizations to openly discriminate and ostracize an entire portion of the student population.
So that, this way, when the time comes for an athlete to come out as openly gay at UTSA, he or she will do so without the fear of being discriminated against.
He or she will do so without the fear of being unsafe or disturbed, at a university that not only strives for academic greatness, but also for student equality.