ST. LOUIS (CBS St. Louis) — The complexion of the National Football League changed last Saturday after Michael Sam became the first openly gay player to be drafted.
People worldwide saw the video of Sam getting emotional on the phone talking to St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher after getting picked, then embracing and kissing his boyfriend, Vito Cammisano.
Sam getting drafted and the kiss were mainly met with positive results, though there were some detractors. Both the Miami Dolphins’ Don Jones and former Mississippi basketball player Marshall Henderson took to Twitter to denounce Sam kissing his boyfriend during the NFL Draft broadcast.
ESPN producer Seth Markman, who oversaw the network’s draft coverage, called it an emotional and historic moment.
“In the end, I am glad our team made the decision we did,” he told The Monday Morning Quarterback regarding showing the kiss on air. “It was a really cool moment to be involved in.”
With the league and the media seemingly embracing Sam, attention has turned to a player that’s not currently playing – Tim Tebow – and raising questions if there is a double standard on how the two were received and treated.
Tebow, who last appeared for the New England Patriots during training camp in 2013, sat out the season after no other team decided to sign him. Despite his previous success, Tebow has been slammed for his play and mocked by some for his Christian beliefs in some media outlets.
Peter Roff, a contributing editor at U.S. News & World Report, wrote in April 2013 that Tebow was treated like a “circus freak” by the New York media after he was traded by the Denver Broncos to the New York Jets.
“Tebow, you see, is a Christian – and is fairly open about. He seems to take the Biblical admonition not to hide one’s faith under a bushel rather literally,” Roff wrote. “He’s used eye black to put scriptural citations on his face on game days. He prays in public and talks about God in an utterly respectful, even loving way. He and his mother appeared in a Superbowl Sunday television ad that talked about the virtues of life and directed people to a website where they could learn more about abortion.
“The secular crowd, New York sports writers included, have never forgiven him for any of that,” Roff continued. “When he arrived at the Meadowlands he was treated more like a circus freak than the guy who helped Denver make the playoffs the previous year and might just be the thing to get the Jets offense in line.”
The New York Times reported in 2011 about the constant criticism Tebow received.
“One columnist in Denver called Tebow the worst quarterback in football,” reported the Times. “Another columnist in Canada labeled Tebow the ‘Kim Kardashian of sports,’ for the intense reaction he elicited. Online, the torrent of mockery and criticism has been fierce. Blog posts included ‘God explains why he let Tim Tebow fail’ and Twitter exploded in hateful vitriol, to which the Sports Illustrated writer Joe Posnanski mused: ‘I believe Tim Tebow isn’t an N.F.L. starter and I want him to prove me wrong because I believe he’s a great guy. Is that allowed?’”
The Christian Coalition of America told CBS St. Louis that there is a double standard of how Tebow’s religious beliefs were mocked compared to how Sam was received.
“I think that there was so much pressure on (Tebow) and that anytime you zero in on someone they can be open to mistakes,” said Michele Combs, spokeswoman for the Christian Coalition. “I do think that the pressure gets to you. I think that a lot of people wanted to see him fail unfortunately.”
Combs stated that there was a bias toward Christianity.
“I just think it’s amazing when someone talks about his religion, especially being a Christian, they are not embraced by the media or the Hollywood elite,” Combs said, adding that Americans do want to see Tebow get treated fairly.
“I think it’s just a certain elite group that has a lot of power and gets a lot of media’s attention,” she said. “I think a majority of Americans would like to see someone like Tim Tebow get the same equal treatment (as Sam).”
Wade Davis, executive director of You Can Play, doesn’t believe that there is a double standard between the reactions of Sam and Tebow.
“I don’t think either one was treated differently,” Davis, the former NFL player who came out as gay in 2012, told CBS St. Louis. “Unfortunately we live in a society where there is no middle ground, you either support or hate someone.”
Davis stated that fans don’t understand the business side to football as to why a player like Tebow is not in the league currently.
“If you sit back and understand the game of football, you will understand why he will be cut,” Davis explained.
Davis also said that he isn’t worried about how his teammates will embrace Sam in the locker room.
“Athletes spend enormous amounts of time with one another,” Davis told CBS St. Louis. “Unlike your normal 9-5 job, athletes move through periods of discomfort much quicker because of the time they spend together.”
During an introductory press conference for the Rams draft picks, Sam said that his sexuality was never a secret.
“Apparently, everybody else makes a big deal out of it,” Sam said. “But my teammates and my school didn’t.”
Sam also said that his focus right now is on football.
“I will always support equality, period,” he said. “But my job is to focus on football and help this team win a championship.”