The Arizona State Sun Devils have hired former NFL coach Herm Edwards a their new head football coach. Edwards has shared colorful thoughts on a range of topics over the years, most famously reminding everyone that “You play to win the game.”
As an NFL analyst, Edwards has talked openly about gay athletes over the last few years. His comments reflect a man who really does seem like he would welcome a gay player onto his team, but who also at times relies on tired tropes with little basis in reality.
About a year before Michael Sam came out publicly, Edwards was asked if the NFL was “ready” (gosh I hate that word) for a gay player. He said the league was ready, and that he was ready to support that player.
“I would have no problem with that as a coach or even as a football player,” he said almost five years ago. “That wouldn't bother me. You're drafting a guy who already can play football. And if he's a good football player, if he can tackle, catch and run, score touchdowns, come on, get in the huddle and let's go.”
Edwards also said some really stupid things after Sam came out. He appeared on ESPN (he’s an analyst there) the night Sam came out and seemed to say 1) it’s not that big of a deal and 2) it’s a potential disaster.
“Can we handle this guy?” Edwards asked. “Can we handle the media that's going to come with this situation? He's bringing baggage into your locker room. So when you think about Michael Sams [sic], all of a sudden, can the players handle the media attention that they're going to get when they get the question asked, 'Are you OK with a gay teammate?’”
To his second point about being asked if they are OK with a gay teammate, it seems pretty easy to say “Yes I am.” Not sure how that difficult answer translates into “handling the media.”
To his first point about the nonsense about a media circus, as we have seen over and over again with gay pro athletes, the media attention dies quickly. Sure it pops up again from time to time when Josina Anderson does a report about the gay athlete’s showering habits, but it’s not this weeks-long insanity that so many seem to fear.
We saw this season how this translates to the college football atmosphere. Kansas State OT Scott Frantz came out publicly in an ESPN interview, and that was about it. A couple reporters asked him questions during his media availability, but it was otherwise simply onward to the season. Arizona’s My-King Johnson redshirted this year, but even before he made that decision there was no flock of cameras following his every move.
Edwards’ possible landing spot — Arizona State — previously had an openly gay player on the team, Chip Sarafin. The team survived. They would with an out gay player under Edwards, too.
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