The NFL regular season is almost here. But there's one player you won't see on the sideline this year:
Let's be very clear about this: If Michael Sam's sexual orientation was still private knowledge, he would be on an NFL roster today.
He's the first SEC defensive player of the year to fail to make an NFL opening day roster in his first pro season — and he may go down in NFL history as the only winner of that award to ever fail to make a roster.
There are 1,696 NFL roster spots, and another 320 jobs on NFL practice squads, and Michael Sam apparently wasn't good enough for any of them.
When fans looked at Michael Sam, they saw a guy who racked up nearly a dozen sacks as a senior in the toughest league in college football, won All-American honors, and then produced another three sacks in three preseason games for the St. Louis Rams. The NFL saw a distraction, which is a polite dance around the truth: People like Michael Sam still aren't welcome in the NFL.
The NFL has just made it clear — on no uncertain terms — that it can afford to continue to be homophobic. Millions of Americans are still going to tune in on Thursday night to see the NFL season kickoff. Make no mistake: That's all that matters to the NFL: those eyeballs, and the dollars that come with them. That's what the NFL's sponsors want, and that's what the NFL wants. Nothing changes unless viewers like you decide to stop watching NFL games, stop playing fantasy football, and stop buying NFL merchandise.
The NFL doesn't care about what you care about. Not gun violence, not domestic abuse, not equal rights, not player safety. All of this is appalling, but the NFL has shown that it's not going to change anytime soon, especially not when it's making this much money without changing a thing. NFL teams split $6 billion in revenue last year — a league record. Commissioner Roger Goodell made more than $44 million in 2012. (And the NFL is a nonprofit, which means it saves millions of dollars each year in taxes.)