The reaction to Missouri football star Michael Sam's announcement that he is entering the NFL Draft as an openly gay player has been wide and ranging.
One of the most common opinions is that teams could avoid drafting Sam because his landmark announcement will be a distraction for NFL teams. Former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe says the word "distraction" is the NFL's way of hiding its intolerance of homosexuality.
“The code word to look for here is ‘distraction,’” Kluwe said Monday in an interview with 610 SportsRadio in Kansas City. “They always love to use that word, ‘distraction.’ It reminds me a lot of what Richard Sherman was talking about, when he said, ‘Why it was OK for everyone to call me a thug when it’s a code word for the N-word now?’ In this case, ‘distraction’ really seems to be a code word for, ‘I’m intolerant and I don’t like gay people. And I think it’s going to distract people because I’m personally distracted by it.’”
Sherman gained a lot of negative attention following a post-game interview with Erin Andrews in which he adamantly stated he is the best cornerback in the NFL. He said he was called a "thug" for acting the way he did, which he viewed as an alternative way to call him the N-word.
Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio says Kluwe is on to something.
"Kluwe is right, to an extent. Some coaches and/or General Managers will hide behind the term “distraction” because they simply don’t want to have an openly gay player in the locker room, either because they disagree with that orientation or because they fear the locker room will become divided and dysfunctional."
An anonymous NFL player personnel assistant told Sports Illustrated the NFL isn't ready for openly gay players. The assistant said gay slurs are still so commonplace in NFL locker rooms, that having an openly gay player would "chemically imbalance" the rooms.
Former Vikings center Matt Birk disagrees. He believes football players will accept Sam for who he is.
“I know there are stereotypes about football players and what the locker room is like and all that,” Birk told ESPN's Kevin Seifert. “Some of those stereotypes, sometimes we’re our own worst enemies. We take advantage of all the perks of the locker room. Sometimes that means you act like a teenager. But when push comes to shove, when you’re talking about something like this, this serious issue and monumental of an issue, I really think football players will answer the bell.”
Kluwe, who is a public advocate for same-sex marriage and the LGBT community, attended a coming out party for Sam in Los Angeles on Saturday night. According to Outsports.com, Sam was joined by Kluwe, Dave Kopay, the gay former NFL running back who announced he was gay in 1975, Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane, who is also openly gay and former NFL players Brendon Ayanbedejo and Wade Davis.
Pictured from left to right, Davis, Kopay, Sam, Kluwe, Beane, Ayanbedejo