Coming Out in the NFL: The Story of Michael Sam

Michael Sam, Defensive End for the St. Louis Rams, was born on Jan 7, 1990 in Galveston, Texas. His story begins in Texas, playing Defensive End and Offensive Tackle for Hitchcock High School. After a highly successful four years and scholarship offers from numerous high profile universities throughout the country, this All-American chose to make the University of Missouri his home for the next four years of his career. Michael Sam continued his impressive run from 2009-2013 accumulating numerous honors and an impressive record. In August of 2013, prior to his graduation from the University of Missouri, Michael Sam courageously came out as gay to his fellow teammates. In the 2014 NFL Draft, as a 7th Round Draft pick for the St. Louis Rams, Michael Sam overcame a long up and down ordeal, to become the first openly gay football player ever drafted into the NFL.

It’s possible that the most revolutionary moment in Michael Sam’s courageous journey toward a position with the St. Louis Rams football team was ‘The Kiss.’ When he was finally chosen as a rookie Defensive End, he instinctively kissed his boyfriend, Vito Cammisano – cameras rolling and the international media watching. It was a tender, moving gesture and completely in keeping with the moment. It would have been nothing special if Michael were kissing a girlfriend – but he wasn’t – and that’s why it was a revolutionary moment.

Michael Sam’s decision to come out shortly after finishing an illustrious college football career at the University of Missouri (All-American, Southeastern Conference Player of the Year) was startling and brave. The decision by the Ram’s organization to recognize his talent and draft him was also a breakthrough. But the spontaneous kiss when he heard the news was the real revolutionary moment.

The kiss meant Michael Sam was a real person with a life and feelings, not just an abstract symbol of gay progress. The semi-shocked press reaction and the turmoil on Twitter were indicators that this country might be ready for the idea of an out gay football player, but not quite prepared for the reality of a full bodied flesh and blood person moving about on the football stage.

Good for Michael Sam. He shoved the story in the right direction. We don’t need an abstract symbol of liberation. We need actual people. Haters have an easier time attacking abstractions. Real living people with partners and families and struggles and laughter and tears are harder to trash and marginalize.

It remains to be seen how far Michael Sam’s career will go or how accepting the NFL will ultimately be, but what Michael Sam accomplished this year was enormously important. He moved the gay liberation narrative forward. He moved it into the heart of football culture.

The culture of football is vitally important because it’s the place where many Americans forge their identities, their notions of success and their sense of what’s permissible and what’s not. To change football is, in many ways, to change America.

This is a lot to put on football – a dangerous sport run as a ruthless business. It’s facing enormous challenges at the moment: racism, locker room bullying, the ongoing tragedy of head injuries. But if football can evolve – become more accepting of diversity, draw the proper locker room boundaries for behavior – perhaps America can also evolve.

This story was originally published in the Summer 2014 Edition of Community Voices, a Biashelp magazine.

White House Drug Policy Director Awards $88.2 Million to Local Communities to Prevent Youth Substance Use

The Long Island Network of Community Services, Inc. (LINCS) is pleased to announce that we have been awarded funding by the Drug Free Communities program for the North Fork Alliance Coalition. LINCS has been spearheading the coalition for the past five years and is pleased to be able to continue its work. LINCS is a community-based not-for-profit agency whose goal is to build capacity and to enhance the programs of publicly supported health and human service organizations and coalitions across Long Island. “Drug prevention programs
like the ones at LINCS help our entire community by reducing substance abuse on Long Island,” Rep. Steve Israel said. “This grant is an acknowledgement of the good work they do and it will help them continue to have an important impact on Long Island.”

The Drug Free Communities program is directed by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, in partnership with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). LINCS will receive the maximum of $125,000 each year for five years in DFC grant funds. We are proud to report that the North Fork Alliance was the only new grantee from Long Island, and one of five new grantees for New York State. LINCS would like to thank the North Fork Alliance members for all their continued efforts in making the community safer for the youth and is looking forward to an additional five years of working together.

“Efforts to keep our youth drug free are critical to healthy and safe communities here on the North Fork”, said Jennifer Fazio, LINCS Project Director for the North Fork Alliance Coalition. “This new funding will allow the North Fork Alliance to mobilize and organize the community to prevent and reduce youth substance use.” The North Fork Alliance serves communities on the North Fork of Long Island with over 45,000 community members. “I strongly support the North Fork Alliance’s mission to fight back against the scourge of youth drug abuse,” said Congressman Tim Bishop. “I am pleased that federal funding to LINCS through the Drug Free Communities Program will further the Alliance’s vital work to strengthen our community and help our young people make the right choices for their future.”

Part of the Solution to Ending Bullying on Long Island

The 2010 Ethics of American Youth Survey, conducted by the Josephson Institute of Ethics, surveyed 43,321 teens ages 15 to 18, from 78 public and 22 private schools. The study found that 50% of students said they had “bullied, teased or taunted someone at least once,” and 47% had been “bullied, teased or taunted in a way that seriously upset me at least once.”

LINCS/BiasHELP, the Long Island Network of Community Services and its affiliate organization, BiasHELP, Inc. are deeply concerned about the impact of bullying on children as well as the impact bullying has on the school as a whole. We believe that an action is considered as bullying behavior when someone repeatedly and on purpose says or does mean or hurtful things to another person who has a hard time defending himself or herself. Bullying can seriously affect the emotional, physical, and academic well-being of children who are bullied and contribute to a negative school climate.

LINCS/BiasHELP are committed to reducing the incidences of bullying in Long Island schools and communities. After doing extensive research we have identified the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program as the foremost bullying prevention program available. It is a whole school program that has been proven to prevent or reduce bulling throughout a school setting.

In addition, the Olweus Bulling Prevention Program has received recognition from a number of organizations including: Blueprints Model Program, Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence, University of Colorado at Boulder; Model Program, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Effective Program, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice; and Level 2 Program, U.S. Department of Education.

Committed to Reducing Bullying on Long Island

As there were four reported teen suicides linked to bullying in the month of September alone, LINCS/BiasHELP, the Long Island Network of Community Services and its affiliate organization, BiasHELP, Inc. are deeply concerned about the impact of bullying on children as well as the impact bullying has on the school as a whole. We believe that an action is considered as bullying behavior when someone repeatedly and on purpose says or does mean or hurtful things to another person who has a hard time defending himself or herself. Bullying can seriously affect the emotional, physical, and academic well-being of children who are bullied and contribute to a negative school climate.

LINCS/BiasHELP are committed to reducing the incidences of bullying in Long Island schools and communities. After doing extensive research we have identified the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program as the foremost bullying prevention program available. It is a whole school program that has been proven to prevent or reduce bulling throughout a school setting.

In addition, the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program has received recognition from a number of organizations including: Blueprints Model Program, Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence, University of Colorado at Boulder; Model Program, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Effective Program, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice; and Level 2 Program, U.S. Department of Education.

As it is highly recommended that schools work with certified Olweus trainers on the implementation of the program, our staff have become the only certified Olweus trainers on Long Island.

Anti-Bullying Logo Contest

The Long Island Network of Community Services, Inc. (LINCS) and BiasHELP, Inc. are launching an anti-bullying awareness and fundraising initiative, the Anti-bullying Logo Contest. This contest is open to all Nassau and Suffolk County youth ages 11-18 who are interested in using their creativity to help make a difference in the Long Island community.

Bullying is defined as an individual hurting or scaring someone physically, emotionally, or psychologically, on purpose and repeatedly. Bullying can take the form of pushing, punching, spreading rumors, excluding an individual from a group, or cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is when an individual bullies another individual using electronic methods such as texting, instant messaging, or using a social network such as Facebook, Myspace, or Twitter. Recent research shows that the effects of bullying can cause depression, anxiety and low self-esteem among those who are bullied and are bullies.

BiasHELP’s mission statement includes combating bullying, cyberbullying and internet violence. Through this initiative, we are seeking a logo to illustrate our anti-bullying message. This logo will be used on our website, literature and promotional materials, and will be seen throughout Long Island. All logo’s are to be submitted with the registration form and $10.00 registration fee by October 29, 2010 to LINCS: 60 Adams Avenue, Suite 101 Hauppauge, NY 11788.

BiasHELP Applauds the Overturning of California’s Same-Sex Marriage Ban

BiasHELP, Inc. is a not-for-profit agency dedicated to the prevention of bias crimes, hate-related harassment, bullying, cyber-bullying and discrimination. BiasHELP applauds Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker for his ruling that overturned California’s same-sex marriage ban on Wednesday, August 4, 2010. This ruling was made in a lawsuit filed by two gay couples who claimed the voter-approved ban, Proposition 8, violated their civil rights.

Proposition 8 was passed in November of 2008, five months after the state Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in California. Supporters argued the ban was necessary to safeguard the traditional understanding of marriage and to encourage responsible childbearing.

Currently, same-sex couples can only legally wed in Massachusetts, Iowa, Washington, D.C., Connecticut, Vermont, and New Hampshire. Dr. Gail Barouh, BiasHELP’s CEO/Managing Director, “hopes that these verdicts will set the stage for a United States Supreme Court ruling on whether bans on same-sex marriage are infringing on the civil rights of a minority group and would, therefore be, unconstitutional.”

For more information on BiasHELP’s programming and efforts, please visit the website at www.BiasHELP.org or call our toll free number at 877-END-BIAS (363-2427).