With the news last week that University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam was gay, the NFL world has been turned on its ear as it tries to come to grips with the fact that there will likely be an openly gay player in the league for the first time in its history.
Ever since that news broke with Sam’s admission, the rest of the sports world has been evaluating whether they too would be ready for a gay player to enter the ranks of their game. While the NHL has been the most forward about this situation with the embracing of the group “You Can Play” and other organizations, both the NBA and MLB have been a bit quieter on that front.
In the cases of the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox though, there is one thread that seems to run through both organizations: the only thing that matters about a player is whether he helps us win, not what sexual orientation he is.
White Sox pitcher Chris Sale was the most vocal about it.
“For me personally, if you show up, you’re ready to play, I don’t care what you believe in, who you are, where you’re from, any of that stuff,” he told Comcast SportsNet. “If you’re going to play hard and you’re going to play with respect, give him a jersey and put him the locker right next to me. I don’t care.”
Sale also didn’t mince words when asked about those players that would judge a player based on their sexuality. “The people that get all bent out of shape about that need a reality check,” he said.
On the Cubs’ side of things, pitcher Jeff Samardzija told media members that he did have a gay teammate in the minor leagues, and echoed Sale’s sentiments about what he looks for in a teammate.
“You win games with talent and good numbers and things like that,” he said. “You don’t win games with looks and styles and this and that. As a teammate, all you want is a guy to have your back, a guy to play hard for you and a guy that goes out there and battles with you every day of the week, regardless of preferences.”
True to his reputation as a scholar and a savvy forward-thinking executive, Cubs President Theo Epstein summed his feelings up on the matter very well.
“I think it’s important to be on the right side of history,” he said. “Clearly, we’ve reached that time in this society where you can do the right thing and it’s not any brave stand anymore. It’s just the right thing to do.”
“If there’s a player that can help you, you can’t look at things that don’t matter. Sexual orientation doesn’t matter with respect to winning games, with respect to having strong character, with respect to fitting into the clubhouse and making strong bonds with teammates,” he added.
All three of these guys, simply put, get it. A player’s sexual orientation matters about as much on the baseball field and in the locker room as what kind of cereal he eats in the morning. All that matters about a player is whether or not they can help a team win at the end of the game, and the more athletes and front office executives that can accept that irrefutable truth, the better.
Kudos to Epstein, Samardzija, and especially Sale for not only being grown-ups about this topic, but speaking up forcefully for equality in the locker room.