The amount of known lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people has significantly increased over time. Why have different sexual orientations become more acceptable? Is there an outlet that has made being part of the LGBT community more acceptable? For Michael Sam, a recently graduated football player at University of Missouri, social media aided his announcement of being gay. Will social media be enough to influence the public to accept a gay football player into this notoriously homophobic sport?
Michael Sam publicly came out that he is gay in early February. Prior to this announcement, he was expected to be drafted in the National Football League (NFL) in May. If he gets drafted, he will be the first publicly gay player in the NFL, which would be a huge turning point in the culture of America. According to The Daily Beast article “How Howard Bragman Orchestrated Michael Sam’s Coming Out” by Itay Hod, it has just been discovered that Michael Sam’s agents asked Howard Bragman, a public relations practitioner, to help Michael come out before the draft. Bragman is known for helping celebrities and athletes come out, which is the opposite of what most PR practitioners are hired to do.
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Bragman held a dinner with former athletes, most of whom are gay, to help Michael feel comfortable and get the courage to go public. Having Michael come out before being drafted was a huge risk and could seriously hurt his chances of being drafted. What they believed would be a big help in aiding the acceptance of Michael’s sexual orientation was social media. Bragman mentioned, “It’s certainly one of the two biggest comings out ever. This and Ellen. But hers was in a different time. You didn’t have social media back then. I don’t think the president tweeted about it. This broke stereotypes. Football is where gladiators compete in America today.” Bragman coordinated the story to be released through The New York Times, ESPN, and Outsports.com. The New York Times article “Athletes Offer Support to Michael Sam on Social Media” by Daniel Victor provides supportive tweets from his teammates at Missouri, NFL players, former athletes that have come out, and more.
Image taken as a screengrab from an article in The New York Times
Football can be viewed as the most traditionally masculine and homophobic sport. If this were 10 years ago, or even 5, Michael most likely would not have stood a chance to get drafted after announcing he is gay. Social media has had a positive effect in enabling LGBTs to be who they are and spread the word for support. As Bragman pointed out, “We live in a world where you don’t have to tell your story 28 times. If you tell your story once or twice and you tell it well, and handle it right, it’s going to go viral anyway.” Even if Michael doesn’t get drafted because of his sexual orientation, it definitely got people talk and has gotten all of America’s attention, including the President. I think that through social media, if you see other people supporting Michael, it can create a domino effect.
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