Sen'Derrick Marks, a defensive lineman for the Jacksonville Jaguars, managed to insult Michael Sam and the woman reported about to be hired as the NFL's first female referee in the same sentence.
"For women, it's great,'' Marks said. "Ain't nothing wrong with it, especially as long as she knows what she's doing.''
"It's just like the Michael Sam situation - if he wasn't gay, he would have gone undrafted,'' Marks said. "Instead, the league drafts him because I think they are trying to monopolize every aspect of the world..the same thing with a female ref. For the league, it's great publicity. The NFL is all about monopolizing every opportunity.''
He then added he's rooting for her to succeed. "I hope it works for her,'' he said.
Marks has it backwards. Sam's draft stock started dropping as soon as he publicly announced he was gay on Feb. 9, 2014. Within hours, Sports Illustrated was already quoting anonymous team officials who doubted Sam's ability to fit in because of his sexual orientation. Sam's projected draft position also started to fall quickly. On draft day, the 2013 SEC co-defensive player of the year lasted until the 249th pick, seven spots from being undrafted. He was cut by the Rams after training camp and from the Dallas Cowboys practice squad in October.
It can easily be argued that by coming out, Sam hurt his status. That's not how Marks sees it, though, and he implies the same thing with Thomas. He does say he hopes she succeeds but that's after strongly suggesting she is getting the chance solely because she's a woman.
Sadly, I don't think Marks is in the minority in his views. I have heard and read comments from way too many people that Sam came out to ensure being drafted. I think everyone who believes that has it wrong. Sam not being in the league -- whatever the reason -- will have a chilling effect on other players considering coming out before their place on a team is secure. Finally, Marks seems to not realize that there are already gay NFL players. The only difference is that they are closeted and Sam is not; Marks might even shower with one on a regular basis with the Jaguars.
As for Thomas, there is nothing about being an official that requires skills only a man has. It doesn't take any special physical strength (Ed Hochuli's "guns" are more for show) and a woman can be as fit as any man. I don't think Thomas' imminent hiring or Sam being drafted were publicity stunts. Both were more a case of it's about time.