Too much media emphasis on gay athletes?

Posted By: Spencer Vasey

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have undoubtedly heard the buzz surrounding Michael Sam and this year’s NFL scouting combine. Just two weeks before the start of the combine, Sam, an All-American defensive lineman from Missouri, announced in an interview with ESPN that he is gay. This marks the first time that an openly gay man has entered the combine, and if drafted, Sam will be the first openly gay player in the NFL.

In the two weeks since Sam’s announcement, there has been an inordinate amount of media attention paid to Sam. It is nearly impossible to find an article about the combine that doesn’t mention Sam and his sexuality.

Media outlets have latched on to the story, analyzing Sam’s every move and questioning how his announcement would affect his performance.

This past week, basketball player Jason Collins made history by becoming the first openly gay NBA athlete after he dawned a Brooklyn Nets jersey for a game against the Lakers. His two rebounds and five fouls, which would normally only show up in the fine print of a box score, were front-page news.

The media seems to have become a bit gay-athlete obsessed, but the question is why? Is it empowering to focus on the sexuality of the athlete? Or does it take away from the athlete’s accomplishments if they are constantly identified as a “gay athlete”? Is the media celebrating a shift in the sports world or are they making the divide even larger?

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7 responses to “Too much media emphasis on gay athletes?

  1. Jennifer Gardner

    I think the media is trying to celebrate a shift in sports culture, but in reality, they are making the divide temporarily even larger. The first of anything is a bit of a novelty, and the media is making Collins’s sexuality a much bigger deal than is necessary. I think that the divide is temporarily larger for him and Sam because of all the attention they are getting, but it will be better for the next few people that come out. Once it is no longer unusual for athletes to be gay, then the divide won’t be as noticeable.

    Personally, I do think it distracts from the athletic performance of the athlete to focus on their sexuality. It isn’t a relevant part of their athletic ability, so it shouldn’t be such a big deal when they’re reported on.

    • I agree with you that it distracts from their performance. While the news outlets are busy talking about Sam and his sexuality, they are completely forgetting to talk about the entire reason he is at the combine, his hard work and athletic performance in college. Personally, I would feel insulted if I had put in all that hard work and all that anybody cared about was my sexuality.

      • Brian Taylor Carlson

        I agree as well. I think that an athlete has enough pressure to perform without the extra added pressure of his/her sexuality being reported. However, this seems to be more prevalent as sexual orientation becomes more accepted in all parts of American society. I feel that the athletes themselves are (and should be) feeling more comfortable in expressing who they are. However, I do not believe that commentators should be so scrutinizing. It will be interesting to see where this leads and to see if this scrutiny and constant speculation follows Sam and Collins throughout their career.

  2. I’m sure it takes a lot of courage to not only come out, but to come out and be a sort of public figure. But I have a problem when the media hypes up an athlete’s performance based on the seemingly unrelated issue of that person’s sexuality. It is totally irrelevant, and a little insulting. It makes me uneasy that the media has given these athletes such special attention. I can understand if the media is showing support, or reporting on that support, but if a news organization was to report on a gay athlete’s statistics, there should be no mention of his or her sexuality. A gay player should not be preferentially reported on, unless they actually do something newsworthy.

    It is unfortunate that we live in a society where the fact that the sexuality of public figures is still reported on so heavily (and unnecessarily).

    • You bring up a good point about this being about all public figures. Did you read about Ellen Page’s coming out speech a few weeks ago? The amount of media attention that she received was astronomical. Now it is nearly impossible to search her name without something coming up about her sexuality. People are beginning to question how this will affect the release of the new X-men movie that she stars in. I hope that it doesn’t become so big of an issue that it overshadows her talent as an actress.

  3. I think that it definitely takes away from the athlete’s raw talent and accomplishments when the media focuses so heavily on a player’s sexual orientation. Does it really surprise you that this is making headlines though? It further clarifies the reality of people’s shallow entertainment needs and shows a lack of maturity and acceptance in my opinion.
    We are talking about this stuff in J66; whether something is explicable or misplaced and so on. The athlete being gay or not is not an important factor, but the audience will remain infatuated by this topic for awhile, therefore the media will keep plastering it all over headlines until we move onto the next hot topic.
    I was literally just thinking about this the other day. Great topic and a very timely one.

    • You’re right, it shouldn’t surprise me that the media is obsessed with this. They will generally print whatever news they think will sell, and this story sells. It’s just sad that our media has turned from being a place where we go to get hard-hitting news stories to a place where an athlete’s sexuality is headline news.

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