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Why Is Michael Sam Getting So Much Praise When Tim Tebow Caught So Much Hate?

First let me say—as both a fan of the NFL and a zealot for the Pittsburgh Steelers—I have always thought talking extensively about athletes outside of the context of “sports talk” (and even then) is silly. Still, there is no denying their celebrity and status and that multi-billion dollar industries make their multi-billions milking sports for all they are worth (and then some).

Nonetheless, the drafting of 20 year-old Michael Sam by the St. Louis Rams is something worth noting. Just as people who’ve never watched a second of baseball know who Jackie Robinson is and why he was important, many LGBT supporters have the same hopes for Michael Sam. Although given his stats, officially “making the team” is still very much uncertain for him.

And, of course, Sam’s drafting brought out no small amount of criticism. Yet the one question in all of this that strikes me as worth asking is how the reaction to it compares to the over-the-top criticism of Tim Tebow’s faith?

Now, there are many reasons why comparing these is like comparing apples to footballs. Sam’s sexual orientation is not a choice, while commitment to one’s faith is often a choice made in spite of reason. Also, there are no other openly gay players, but there are dozens of very open Christian players, including the Steelers’ own Troy Polamalu who can be seen making a sign of the cross after every play.

On the other hand, what Sam and Tebow have in common is their public love for another man. In Tebow’s case it’s Jesus, who at press time has yet to comment about Tebow, Sam’s drafting, or anything at all, but like with most religious discussions it is not about Jesus himself but those who chose to speak for him.

Tebow drew criticism for speaking engagements for certain pastors and religious schools, but not because they were Christian. The dichotomy of religion is that while there are ubiquitous messages of peace, love, and a world beyond this one, there are also equally ubiquitous expressions of fear, hate, and violence.

Perhaps the reason for the ire that Tebow drew is because of the sense of superiority that comes along with being part of a certain religion. These ideas that they “know better” and are “chosen,” along with the ways in which certain religious folks try to dictate that society conform to their beliefs. To be fair, some LGBT advocates are evangelical for their cause as well, but there seems to be every indication that Sam simply wants what all NFL players want: to play the game they love and make enough money to swim in it Scrooge McDuck-style.


Image comprised of photos from Jeff Kern via Flicker Creative Commons and Marcus Qwertyus via Wikicommons

About the author

Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. Along with news and current events, he writes about parenting, art, and personal stories. His serial fiction story "The Prophet Hustle" is available at JukePop.com and a forthcoming independent ebook about the cam-modeling industry "Dirty Little Windows" will be available later this summer.