On the TUNNEY SIDE of SPORTS February 17, 2014 #476 Up next…..Bigotry Be gone!
After further review…The first half of February highlighted an interesting parallel. It began with the announcement by the University of Missouri’s star defensive end, Michael A. Sam Jr. that he was “coming out”. That’s a term in common usage this time of year when college undergrads leave behind their senior year to enter the NFL draft. This was not the case with Sam; he was telling the world that he is gay.
Some in the athletic world accepted it. Some denounced it. And others proclaimed that in the NFL it would be too much of a distraction. The opinion here is that it would only be a distraction if some want to make it so. Sam was the co-player of the year in the Southeastern Conference during the 2013 season. His announcement was a bold move, indeed, coming just prior to the 2014 NFL combine, when all players interested in playing pro ball arrive in Indianapolis to be timed, tested, examined, and interviewed. Will Sam be judged by his sexual identity, or on his ability as a player?
We move from that question to the ESPN documentary film “’51 Dons” which aired on that network the second week of the month. The University of San Francisco Dons went undefeated with a record of 9-0 in 1951, but didn’t make it to a bowl game. Miami’s Orange Bowl invited them, but with the stipulation that the Dons leave behind their two African American players. Those two were Ollie Matson (#33) and Burl Toler (#55).
The ’51 Dons stood strong as a band of brothers and refused to allow racism do what no opponent had done. They turned down that bowl bid, a bold move indeed. But would those Dons be judged by their willingness to play along, or by their human decency? Matson became a Hall-of-Fame player who in 1959 was traded to the Los Angeles Rams for nine players. Toler became the NFL’s first black official, and handled the inevitable slurs and racial epithets with dignity. I know firsthand since Burl and I worked on the NFL field together.
The USA is still the land of the free and the home of the brave. It is hoped that Sam’s bravery will meet, as time goes by, a response that honors those very words we use to describe ourselves.
Will your tolerance find a parallel with doing the right thing?
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