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updated: 2/27/2014 7:03 PM

Why Michael Sam matters

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  • Michael Sam

    Michael Sam

  • Michael Sam

    Michael Sam

  • Jason Collins

    Jason Collins

  • Jackie Robinson

    Jackie Robinson


Often enough, the answer is in the question, the evidence within the query.

And if the reaction to Michael Sam and Jason Collins on social media and via email is any indication, it's more certain than ever that, yes, it's necessary to talk about it.

That question has been asked a lot, and not in a flattering or empathetic fashion.

It's more along the lines of, "Why does Sam have to throw it in our faces?"

"Doesn't Collins have a job now only because he's gay?"

"Aren't these guys taking away jobs from heterosexual males?"

"Why can't they just keep it to themselves and do their jobs?"

"What do they hope to gain by coming out?"

"Haven't we moved past this already?"

"If I'm sick of hearing it, why do I have to keep hearing about it?"

Within the questions are the answers.

Clearly, a large segment of society has long since accepted people for what they are, be it sexual orientation, skin color or religion.

And, clearly, there are many offended by any mention of the gay community.

That's why Michael Sam's announcement was monumental.

It's really not that long ago, historically speaking, that black people in this country couldn't vote, sit in a bus anywhere they wanted or play professional baseball.

Said one angry reader, "Leave it to you to create controversy where none exists. Jackey Robertson and Michael Sam are like comparing apples to oranges. This is not a civil rights struggle. Please."

The fact that this individual couldn't spell correctly either of Jackie Robinson's names is something of a tip-off regarding his history knowledge, but look around the country right now and explain to me how it's not a civil rights issue.

Webster defines civil rights as, "The rights that every person should have regardless of his or her sex, race, or religion ... the rights of personal liberty guaranteed to United States citizens by the 13th and 14th amendments to the Constitution and by acts of Congress."

It's the very guarantee of "equal social and employment opportunities and equal protection under the law, regardless of race, religion or other personal characteristics."

In Arizona on Wednesday night, Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a bill that would have given business owners the right to refuse service to gay men, lesbians and others under the fig leaf of religious grounds, merely a transparent cover for prejudice.

On Monday, Washington lobbyist Jack Burkman said he was preparing legislation that would ban gay athletes from joining the NFL.

In a statement, Burkman wrote, "We are losing our decency as a nation. Imagine your son being forced to shower with a gay man. That's a horrifying prospect for every mom in the country. What in the world has this nation come to?"

Maybe the world has evolved and you haven't, Jack, but this sounds precisely like a civil rights issue to me.

No one's kidding anyone here. There is hate and discrimination everywhere and it will remain everywhere as long as there are humans interacting on this planet.

Just in the last couple weeks, I've been called every slur imaginable for writing about this topic, and I know other writers and broadcasters who have encountered the same.

It's more than enough proof of contempt for anyone that is different, that bigotry is alive and well and festering in the homes of millions of Americans.

That's not going away any time soon -- and that is precisely why we are talking about Michael Sam, just as we still talk about Jackie Robinson.

Here's the good news. The overwhelming majority support Michael Sam, or -- at the least -- couldn't care less about his private life.

At the same time, this is America and you have the right to believe what you want, say what you think and be who you are, but the law is the law and discrimination is against the law.

Michael Sam has rights, too. This is his America, too.

So, "Why do we have to discuss Michael Sam so much?"

The fact that we have to talk about it is the very proof that we have to talk about it.

Within the question is the painfully obvious answer.

•Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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