It was with great fanfare and much self-congratulatory media hype that the first openly gay NFL player was given ESPN’s Arthur Ashe Courage Award at last year’s ESPY Awards ceremony. Michael Sam — at the center of an overheated skirmish in the ongoing culture wars — had his moment in the ESPN spotlight. It was a moment that quickly lost its luster as the spotlight grew so dim as to barely be noticed.
Where is Michael Sam now, the player celebrated for his “coming out” courage in the world of sports? The first publicly gay player to be drafted in the NFL, Sam was picked in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL draft by the St. Louis Rams, who cut him at the end of training camp. He then spent a little time on the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad before being waived.
Finding no place in the pros stateside, Sam signed with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League (CFL) before the 2015 season. However, after a strange and unexplained absence from that team, Michael Sam — who is the only openly gay player in the CFL — is still not considered to be “in football shape” and has yet to see any game action.
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Which brings us to the 2015 ESPY Awards on tap Wednesday night in Los Angeles. And on the red carpet ready to receive this year’s Arthur Ashe Courage Award will be the person formerly known as Bruce — the woman formerly known as a man — Caitlyn Jenner. As The Los Angeles Times notes in its coverage of the controversy surrounding the award to Jenner for his/her open embrace of his/her public transgender identity, “The celebrity-driven worlds of entertainment and sports are set to collide….”
The show, which will air on ABC, could almost give itself an award now for the cultural moment ahead — the first major public appearance by Caitlyn Jenner, formerly Bruce Jenner, the Olympic gold medal winner and reality star of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.”
While many believe that the honors and accolades heaped upon Caitlyn Jenner by numerous media outlets and figures are a sign of a more inclusive, accepting society in America, others feel the obsession with Jenner is a sad commentary on the culture wars as freak show material — the promotion of “acceptance” as a way to try to normalize what was, not so long ago, considered abnormal behavior.
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The article in the Times points out the claim of some critics of the ESPN honor to be bestowed on the woman who, not so long ago, was a man — that the award is a “payoff for the exclusive sit-down interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer that aired in April and drew huge ratings.”
ESPN denies that the Sawyer interview had anything to do with the Jenner award, despite the fact that ABC owns ESPN.
“But that denial has done little to quiet the debate, fueled by the argument that the honor seems to be more about ratings and the relentless Kardashian hype machine than merit,” notes The Los Angeles Times. “Several members of the Kardashian family, including Kim, are expected to attend — and may walk the red carpet.”
Considering that the ESPY Awards are only a few hours away, it seems an appropriate time to replay the recent Bob Costas interview in which the noted sportscaster and commentator called the honor for Jenner a “crass exploitation play” by the cable channel and its ratings-minded management.
You can watch the Costas segment by clicking on this link to the Western Journal post from June of this year.
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