Michael Sam has been through the ringer these past few weeks, all the while embarking on his quest to become the first openly gay football player in the NFL. Sam has been scrutinized both mentally and physically, as he has just completed the NFL Combine workouts and interviews with team representatives. Many have compared Sam to other black, sports pioneers like Jackie Robinson, Jesse Owens, and Arthur Ashe. You can add another person to that list….. Paula Deen. The disgraced, former Food Network host feels that she is in a similar situation as that of Michael Sam.
Deen bases her comparison of herself with Sam on the fact that both of their names have been tarnished – Sam being known as the “gay” football player and Deen as the “racist” television host.
In an interview with People magazine, on newsstands March 10, the 67-year-old Deen discussed attempting to salvage her reputation after the N-word controversy that left her publicly scorned and without a job:
I feel like ’embattled’ or ‘disgraced’ will always follow my name. It’s like that black football player who recently came out. He said, ‘I just want to be known as a football player. I don’t want to be known as a gay football player.’ I know exactly what he’s saying.
If you look at Deen’s quote closely, you will see that she really hasn’t leaned much since her downfall, which was brought about because of racial insensitivity. In her quote, Deen refers to Michael Sam as the “black” football player. There was no reason for her qualify Sam with that term. Clearly, Sam is in the news and world’s spotlight because he’s gay. Not because he’s black. That type of unwitting talk is what got Deen into trouble in the first place. She seems to use racially tinted language rather casually, even while describing Sam.
The entire premise of Deen’s comparison to Michael Sam is flawed from the start – Deen brought on her own problems. She has been vilified because modern thought and society no longer feel that is it acceptable to use racially insensitive language. Sam, on the other hand, is struggling against deeply seated prejudices toward gay and lesbian individuals. Michael Sam is trying to break through the “barrier” and become an openly gay player in the testosterone laden world of football.
Deen also shared her feelings on public scrutiny. She appears unhappy that some people get a pass from the media and public, while others, herself included, are figuratively crucified.
It’s amazing that some people are given passes and some people are crucified. I have new empathy for these situations, though. My dad always told me, ‘Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.’
What is truly amazing is how Paula Deen can honestly compare her self-created problems with the problems that Michael Sam will face, as he struggles to make a roster in the NFL.