San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, in a joint interview on Sunday with quarterback Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers with ESPN, said Missouri defensive end/linebacker Michael Sam would have no problem integrating into the 49ers locker room, with one caveat.
He just has to be able to help the team win.
“I think when he steps into that locker room, everyone’s going to know that he’s there to help us win games,” Kaepernick said. “And that’s why you’re in the NFL, to help us win games. No one cares if you’re black, white, straight, gay, Christian, Jewish, whatever it may be.”
That would appear to be the sentiment of the majority of the players in the NFL, according to a survey conducted by ESPN.com’s NFL Nation and ESPN The Magazine. Fifth-one players responded “false” to a true-false question that read: “A player’s sexual orientation matters to you.”
Of the group surveyed, 39 said they would shower around a gay teammate. However, 32 of them said they had teammates or coaches who used homophobic slurs last season and only a little less than half, 25, said an openly gay player would be comfortable in an NFL locker room; 21 said no and five didn’t answer the question.
One player, identified as a starting wide receiver, said, “Whoever takes [Sam in the draft] should have an open talk at the beginning of camp, where everybody can ask what he’s comfortable with, what offends him, what boundaries there should be. When it comes to race, people already know the boundaries, to a certain extent. But I don’t think football players are overly familiar with what can and can’t be said around a gay person.”
Kaepernick, meanwhile, said it’s all about the bottom line.
“When you step on that field, you’re a member of [the team],” Kaepernick said. “That’s your job. That’s your occupation.”
General manager Trent Baalke issued a statement in support of Sam after the SEC’s co-Defensive Player of the Year announced he was gay during an interview with ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” on Feb. 9.
“The 49ers commend Michael for the courage he has displayed as he continues to pursue his NFL career,” Baalke said. “We have and we will continue to evaluate him as we do every draft eligible player, which is always based on their projected contributions to our team on and off the field.”
It’s been a hotly (and often) discussed topic in the last week or so since Sam went public. It shouldn’t matter, but there are old stereotypes out there that continue to live on.