Respect Difference: Sam’s Kiss is a Defiant Message Against Bigotry

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

After being picked in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft, 2013 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, Michael Sam shares a kiss with his lover, Vito Commisano on camera. The video caused a social firestorm.

After being picked in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft, 2013 Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year, Michael Sam shares a kiss with his lover, Vito Commisano on camera. The video caused a social media firestorm.

PHILADELPHIA—In a television special on NBC in 1968, Harry Belafonte and white British pop singer Petula Clark performed an anti-war duet—“Path to Glory”.
During the course of the performance, Clark touched Belafonte’s arm.

A white account executive from Chrysler, the sponsor of the show, demanded that the segment be deleted from the special before it aired not only because it would offend viewers from the South, but because it offended the account executive’s racial sensibilities as well. He wanted it replaced with video that showed Belafonte and Clark performing the song, but standing apart.

But Clark and her husband, the executive producer of the show, refused to allow the sentiments of the Chrysler executive or Southern viewers to make them change the segment.

It was the first time a Black man and a white woman touched one another on national television.

Fast forward to the 2014 NFL Draft.

University of Missouri star defensive end Michael Sam was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round and celebrated the moment, the moment of becoming the first openly gay player to be picked in the NFL Draft, by kissing his boyfriend, Vito Cammisano, on camera.

Social media, as it is wont to do, blew up shortly afterward. While many found it historic, there was a contingent of folks, most of them male, who couldn’t get past the fact Sam, the Southeastern Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year, was kissing a man on camera.

For some of us card-carrying heterosexuals, it was a bit over the top. The reactions I saw on Facebook, Twitter, and among the people at my favorite watering hole kept bringing a line from the Gil Scott-Heron classic hit “B” Movie to mind:

“Civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights: it’s all wrong! Call in the cavalry to disrupt this perception of freedom gone wild! God damn it, first one wants freedom, then the whole damn world wants freedom! …Nostalgia…that’s we want….”

Witnessing people whine about their discomfort and display their prejudices with the pride they’d rather not see gays and lesbians express in regard to this situation made me truly understand why my gay brothers and sisters have been so fervently fighting for their right to express themselves.

American society has always had this “discomfort” with people who aren’t White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant heterosexuals. There’s this perception that you are only a true American if you’re willing to sacrifice your culture, your beliefs, and even your sexual orientation to appease the racism, sexism, and homophobia of the White men who run this society. Difference is seen as inferior in America and because it’s inferior, it must be stamped out.

Over the years, I have watched and covered the NFL Draft. When a young athlete hears his name being called, he kisses his mom and his wife or his girlfriend. It’s a happy day for that young man.

But while we tend not to look twice when a young man engages in a public display of affection with his Mom or female Significant Other, the Double Standard reared its ugly head when Sam and Cammisano kissed.

The most common reaction I saw was “Why do we have to see that?!”, which was closely followed by “Why are gay people are trying to impose their lifestyle on us?!” and my personal favorite, “What do I say to my kids?!”

Let’s keep it real, here. You were watching the NFL Draft and this happened. That’s why you saw it. Secondly, unless something has changed over the last few days and I don’t know about it, there is no law on the books that makes you have to become a homosexual. Thus, no one is forcing you to do anything.

And lastly, you tell your kids the exact same thing that you tell them when they see a man and a woman kissing: That’s what two people do when they love each other. Unless you’re like most parents, then you cover both of your ears and go “la-la-la-la-la” to avoid the question.

What disappointed me the most is that African Americans, a group of people who are among the experts in how America handles those with whom it is uncomfortable, were the ones asking the questions above.

I was even more disappointed in the straight-up lack of empathy with our gay and lesbian neighbors.

If you need any evidence of just how uncomfortable this country still is with the presence of Black people even after the Civil Rights Movement, go to Google, punch in “Barack Obama”, and catch the wave.

From being stopped by the cops stopping you for no reason, to not being able to get a cab even when dressed in a suit and tie, America shows African Americans just how uncomfortable it is with us on a daily basis.

Even when we do things to make the majority culture comfortable with us like making our kids cut their locs or straighten their hair, it doesn’t help.

That’s unacceptable to me. The idea that gay people, African-Americans or anyone has to go out of their way to appease someone’s comfort and prejudice is just wrong.

For gays and lesbians, fear of violent retribution, losing your job, and being shunned by your family kept such simple things as holding your lover’s hand in public out of reach for decades. Heck, the whole reason for the Stonewall riots, the event that began the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Liberation Movement, was that gay and lesbian patrons were getting tired of being dragged out of the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village by New York City police for the simple act of dancing together.

But while the pre-Stonewall days are behind us in a way, the reaction to Sam’s Draft Day kiss shows that while we can tolerate two men dancing together in a dark nightclub, we still can’t handle them holding hands, kissing or any of the myriad public displays of affection that are going on between heterosexual couples right now as we speak.

From the moment he came out and forced NFL general managers to put “openly gay man” and “football player” in the same sentence, Michael Sam has been consistent in putting his happiness before society’s comfort.

And even though you may not like it, you have to respect it.

46 thoughts on “Respect Difference: Sam’s Kiss is a Defiant Message Against Bigotry

  1. I for one wish he would have also groped his bootey..that would really have made some people’s hair stand on end.. Seriously America, me thinks we have bigger fish to fry..
    Like your breakdown on things!

  2. stunningly realized to the page, painful for some to look at and acknowledge, yet if only they would realize America would become great in ways they could not imagine if they would just put aside this decision to separate and divide. We all have the right to be here, to love here, to live here…

  3. This will just be another one of those things we look back on in 30 years and can’t believe people were once offended. You would think, especially after the examples you mentioned above, we would learn from the past.

  4. As a married lesbian woman, I envy his strength to stand up for his relationship. I work in an elementary school and I was afraid to disclose any information about myself. They see “Mrs” and want to ask questions. I get questions like: “what does your husband do” automatically. When I respond, wife… They pretty much drop their jaws and treat me differently. I have come across a few faculty member whom treated my marriage no differently than theirs. We aren’t looking for approval, we simply want respect and equality just as we give.

  5. I don’t even like seeing straight people kissing. I also am alarmed by the increasing sex scenes and general decay of morality displayed on tv and in movies.

    As a Christian, I know there are differing attitudes. There is only one right way, but I’m reminded of 1 Corinthians 10:23:

    All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.

    People know right from wrong, but they are entitled to make their choices.

  6. First, thanks for the history lesson – it brings the present into sharper focus. And here’s my 2 cents worth on the public kiss – I’m gay, but it’s taken me years to be OK with seeing men kiss on TV or on film. In other words, it’s taken a long time to purge the toxic hate I was taught as a child. More power to Sam & his boyfriend!

  7. Hopefully people can begin respect and accept same sex couples. It boggles my mind why people get so upset when they see two men or two women together. They’re people nonetheless who have done nothing to hurt you, but alas, I suppose we’re still used to the picturesque image of what love is.

  8. Hopefully one day not too far off we can look back and be amazed that people back then had such prejudice… It still appalls me when I meet it now. Having someone to love is what matters, not their colour, gender or sexuality.

  9. Reblogged this on Iconography ♠ Incomplete and commented:
    “Civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights: it’s all wrong! Call in the cavalry to disrupt this perception of freedom gone wild! God damn it, first one wants freedom, then the whole damn world wants freedom! …Nostalgia…that’s we want….” —- when people make comments like these I am appalled because it stigmatizes human beings. Such a racist phenomenon is so nicely sauntered in as though no history, no depth perception or knowledge can come from this. Aside from heterosexual matrices and heteronormativity there is no reason why a person may hate race, gender or women with such passionate speech. You may not like homosexuality but a person’s sexual orientation does not only define them; yes, it is important and a great part of their lives because they have in many ways identify as “gay” or “queer” but to hold them only as that is also unfair. Also heteronormativity hurts men a lot as well or any sex taken as the perfect one because it does not allow men to have differences or share those differences.

  10. If the Gays want RESPECT, then hows about SHOWIN SOME “RESPECT” to the people who also have the RIGHT to “DIASAGREE” with thier views. That goes BOTH WAYS. You can’ t FORCE PEOPLE TO LIKE SOMETHING IF THEY HAVE “DIFFERENT BELIEFS” thats not being REALISTIC. And excuse me but that “kiss” came so fast on ESPN that if kids were watchin (which they were) it was TOO LATE to simply CHANGE THE CHANNEL.

    • Homophobes and other kinds of horrible people are, of course, entirely free to hold their opinions, I don’t see anything in the article that says otherwise?

      Free speech cuts both ways, like you say: you’re free to get freaked out by teh gayz and vomit your hateful nonsense over the Internet, and decent, right-thinking people are equally free to call you a homophobic shit for your ridiculous views.

  11. I guess the kiss bothers someone more than two guys on the football field hitting each other hard enough to break a leg, or cause a concussion. We watch a boxing match hoping to see someone get hurt. The race car drivers zipping around and we hope to see a crash and a fire and maybe a person burning alive. But the kiss that is the last draw. Humans are funny in a strange way.

  12. I just saw it as a kiss of excitement because he got signed and his dream turned reality. Bonus for it because it showed the clear racial and sexuality issues still in effect

  13. Literally 99% of people had no problem with this. Stop trying to make a sensationalist headline. The sooner this guy gets cut based on his football talents and we stop hearing about him the better.

    • This point was the only part of the article that I disagreed with:

      “What disappointed me the most is that African Americans, a group of people who are among the experts in how America handles those with whom it is uncomfortable, were the ones asking the questions above.”

      Why would anyone think that hundreds of years of oppression, repression and brutality would be a learning experience? Why would African-Americans be any less homophobic than other Americans?

      • I would just think that those who know what oppression, hate and discrimination feel like would not do unto others as has been done to AA’s.

        Until I moved to Florida I had no clue. growing up all of us ” others” ( black, gay, questioning, Jewish, Hispanic, Muslim, the tomboys etc) were friends and shared a mutual respect as members of groups outside of the ” norm” growing up like that sheltered me from many realities.

  14. This post is right on the money. I’ve been surprised as well to see African-American, as well as Christian organization, go out of there way to protest the Mr. Sam and The Rams. It honestly boggles my mind. I don’t understand, and will never understand, how oppressed groups will oppress others and not see the hypocrisy in their actions. We all have to do better.

  15. Agreed. Life is too short and important to be worrying about other people’s business. But then, half the stuff anyone writes about would disappear so…

  16. I really enjoyed this piece. I hope soon enough Michael Sam can be judged solely as a football player, but there is a long way to go, I think before people are, as you mention, comfortable.
    Great ideas and a great read from start to finish.

  17. Your post was very well written, and you are very articulate with your words. I was raised to believe that homosexuality is wrong. While we are commanded to love one another, and we are to be obedient to God’s Word including not passing judgement on one another, we must however be very clear that God does not approve of the act of homosexuality.

  18. I feel sorry for Mr. Sams, his boyfriend and anyone unable to find pleasure in a member of the opposite sex. Homosexuality is not natural and the behavior in any form is unclean.

    • The irony of someone on the Internet (which came into existence fully-formed by the will of God, I guess?) calling anything ‘unnatural’ as an insult is pretty hilarious.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s