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updated: 2/10/2014 9:08 PM

Bears could make history with this draft pick

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  • All-American linebacker Michael Sam could become the first openly gay active player in the NFL next season. The Bears surely could find a home for him on their roster.

      All-American linebacker Michael Sam could become the first openly gay active player in the NFL next season. The Bears surely could find a home for him on their roster.
    Associated Press

 
 

Let it be the Bears.

Why not? Why shouldn't Michael Sam play here? Why shouldn't we have a front-row seat for this social study?

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Sam is poised to become the first openly gay man to play in one of the United States' four major team sports.

For those of you wondering why this is a story at all, the word "first" explains it.

The first woman to play major-league baseball will be a story. The first 4-footer to play in the NBA will be a story.

So Michael Sam is a story for being new, and the plot might as well be played out in Chicago.

With his announcement over the weekend, Sam revealed who he is. Now it's up to the NFL to reveal what it is.

Is the league prepared for the 21st century? Can management manage the media circus that will accompany Sam's arrival? Can players cope with change?

Make no mistake. Sam will be in some team's training camp. Early projections have him as a middle-round draft pick, and the NFL can't afford the implication if he falls too far from there.

How bad would that make the league look? Bad enough to be characterized as Neanderthals like some of their players are? Bad enough to be sued for discriminating against a gay man?

Sam told his college coaches and teammates at Missouri that he was gay and it wasn't a problem. If it is a problem in the NFL, that wouldn't speak well for how grown up the league is.

Bears owners the McCaskeys, club president Ted Phillips, general manager Phil Emery and head coach Marc Trestman all appear to be fair-minded folks.

Wouldn't they make the Bears a good fit for Sam, assuming he isn't the next Shea McClellin?

Too bad the Bulls didn't sign Jason Collins after he revealed last year that he's gay. But they didn't need him, and his career was pretty much over anyway.

The Bears, though, do need defensive linemen, and Sam was a defensive end at Missouri and the SEC's defensive player of the year.

So why wouldn't the Bears take a flyer on history?

Ironically, the best people that Michael Sam has going for him are Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin.

The two former Dolphins offensive linemen were at the center of a scandal that shined a spotlight on the NFL's dubious workplace culture.

Harassment, bullying, profanity and all sorts of insensitivities were part of the Miami mess.

The situation down there forced the NFL to define what is acceptable and unacceptable inside football locker rooms. Roger Goodell, the commissioner of commerce, has enough concussion lawsuits to settle without allowing more legal action concerning the workplace environment.

The Dolphins' scandal will ensure that Sam is treated just like any other rookie with aspirations for a long career. Propriety is the NFL's new reality that he'll encounter.

The worst ribbing Michael Sam might get might involve having two first names.

So, seriously, why shouldn't he play here?

Drunken fans and angry opponents? It's easy for them to be consumed by the moment and shout barbs that will include mentions of a player's sexual orientation.

Teammates? There will be resistance among some of them and they'll have to learn to tolerate the arrangement if not embrace it.

Uncomfortable incidents will arise, but Michael Sam was strong enough to come out, so he should be strong enough to deal with them.

Eventually, gay NFL players won't be a story and we'll be able to move on to waiting to chronicle the story of the first Martian to play in the NHL.

Please, let it be for the Blackhawks.

• mimrem@dailyherald.com

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