Slowly — all too slowly — we make progress on basic issues of treating everyone the same, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, and other characteristics. Often, we stop and proudly congratulate ourselves on our enlightenment, and then, inevitably, something happens that shows that we aren’t quite as enlightened as we thought after all.
Consider the report ESPN ran recently concerning Michael Sam, the first admittedly gay man to play in the National Football League. Sam, a linebacker, was a fine player in college. He sacked Johnny Manziel of the Browns in the Rams’ most recent preseason game, but rather than reporting on Sam’s on-the-field performance the ESPN reporter addressed whether Sam was showering with his teammates — and thereby indulged in some of the most benighted stereotypes imaginable. It’s amazing that such a report made it on the air, through who knows how many layers of editors and producers and anchors and production assistants, without someone at the network recognizing how demeaning and insulting it was, but it did. To its credit, ESPN recognized that the report was an egregious blunder and apologized, but you still wonder how it happened in the first place.
One of Sam’s St. Louis teammates, defensive tackle Chris Long, tweeted: “Dear ESPN, Everyone but you is over it.” I wish that were true.