Maybe the NFL is ready for a gay player (5×8 – 2/13/14)

1) UPON FURTHER REVIEW…

Michael Sam prepares to enter the NFL draft.  Associated Press

Stefan Fatsis, the NPR sports commentator, is suggesting bad journalism has created the message that the NFL isn’t ready for a gay player.

Writing on Slate, Fatsis says Sports Illustrated blew it in its follow-up story to University of Missouri player Michael Sam’s announcement over the weekend that he is gay.

The SI article quoted several insiders suggesting Sam would be a distraction.

At first glance, the sources are an impressive bunch. “Executives and coaches” implies high-level responsibility. And eight is a lot, right? But take a closer look. The six cited in the piece are identified as “an NFL player personnel assistant,” “a veteran NFL scout,” “one scout,” “a scout,” “one former NFL general manager,” and “an NFL assistant coach.”

That’s a bunch of second-tier personnel and coaching staffers, and one guy who isn’t in the league anymore. Not a single one of those people will make the final call on whether to draft Michael Sam, and they may not have any meaningful influence at all.

But Thamel and Evans drew some very big conclusions from their comments. NFL locker rooms are “not prepared to deal with an openly gay player.” Sam’s path to the league will be “daunting.” Sam faces “long odds” and a “lonely path.” He will trigger a “publicity circus.”

It’s not only possible but likely that, again, not a single one of those assertions will come to pass. But with its first-out-of-the-gate story, SI helped shift, or at least bifurcate, the conversation.

The Times and ESPN owned the news. SI owned the instant reality check: The NFL is institutionally bigoted; Michael Sam isn’t that good; Michael Sam isn’t worth the trouble; Michael Sam is on his own; good friggin’ luck, Michael Sam.

The comments in SI rocketed around the Web. The Los Angeles Times published a story devoting one paragraph to the announcement and 10 to the SI quotes. The echo chamber was open for business.

Fatsis notes that Sports Illustrated did not quote the NFL execs who profess no problem to having a gay player — that includes the Vikings’ Zygi Wilf.

“The institutional pressure—from commissioner Roger Goodell, who has a gay brother, to progressive-minded owners like Kraft, Mara, Tisch, and others—to welcome Sam to the league will be great. NFL clubs are pragmatic, but they’re not uniformly retrograde. Owners have different priorities than scouts and personnel assistants. They want to win, but they can see the arc of history bending, too,” Fatsis says.

It’s worth noting — if you followed the recent departure of Michael Pesca from NPR — that Fatsis didn’t say any of this on NPR.

Because you sure don’t want your sports reporter sharing an opinion. It destroys your credibility, the experts say.

2) ART OR NOT?
Do racially insensitive slurs in a work of art get a “pass” because they’re in a work of art? Adrienne Doyle, a gallery attendant at the Walker Art Center, doesn’t think so. Writing on Twin Cities Daily Planet, Doyle takes artist Bjarne Melgaard to task for crossing the line “between claiming freedom of expression and producing truly oppressive works for mere shock value” in Melgaard’s “9 Artists” exhibition, exploring the changing role of the artist in the global community.

I was guarding the gallery, watching a white man and his teenage daughter view Melgaard’s photos. They took pictures of the photos, then they stopped in front of the “N*GGER ON A WHITE TRIGGER” photo, talked and laughed at the photo, looked me in the eye and moved on. I was infuriated. I wanted to confront them and ask them what the hell was so funny, but it would have been inappropriate for me as a guard in a museum to interrogate a visitor.

However, even in my anger, I did struggle with trying to figure out if I was being overly sensitive, an accusation that gets thrown around a lot when people of color object to a racist joke or comment. I realized that people of color have been conditioned to endure oppression in silence. My attempt to question my feelings over this piece is evidence of that. The accusation of me being overly sensitive, only informs me that the accuser is more invested in the status quo than in acknowledging injustice.

The offensive nature of the exhibition is exacerbated by the fact most of the Walker’s patrons are white, she says.

3) BEHIND THE CAUCUS NIGHT FIGHTS
Ilhan Omar is telling her side of the caucus-night fighting in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. She pens an op-ed in today’s Star Tribune in which she says she suffered a concussion in the altercation. The fighting pitted supporters of incumbent legislator Phyllis Kahn against Minneapolis school board member Mohamud Noor, who is running for her seat at the Capitol.

Why do I seem threatening? I am a 31-year-old Somali-Muslim woman, a mother of three and an unapologetic progressive. Some suggest that as a woman, I meddle in political affairs and need to be “put in my place.” Some say I deserved what I got because my opinions are contrary to those of a few male political leaders in our community. In addition, a small group has decided that one Somali elected official is enough and now the community should sit down and be quiet. This small group is aided and abetted by influential people outside the community who do not have our best interests at heart. I have now been called an “outsider” and worse by those who attacked me.

What makes me an outsider to the Cedar-Riverside community? I live there. My parents and relatives have lived in Riverside Plaza for more than 15 years. Since I was elected as DFL district vice chair two years ago, I have worked hard to educate members of my community about their rights, and to make sure party rules are followed and that the caucuses are conducted in a way that is inclusive and democratic. I have a duty to teach my people about their rights and protect them from being bamboozled.

“We should vehemently condemn any attempt to express these differences of opinion through violence,” she writes.

4) WHAT? A GUY CAN’T SLEEP IN SAINT PAUL ANYMORE?

What’s the big deal here?

There’ve been worse viral portrayals of Saint Paul cops in recent years but this is the current flap, the Pioneer Press reports. It’s gone viral and suggests a cop pulled a guy over for sleeping. But, the paper says, it’s one of the cops’ friends.

Move along. Nothing to see here.

5) HOW TO VISIT THE ICE CAVES
The great warmup of 2014 is underway and soon it’ll take the ice caves with it. The winter everyone seems to hate has done wonders for the tourism business along the south shore caves. Because you may only get one chance to see this.

WDIO has just posted the FAQ on how to visit the caves.

Bonus I: A New York Times reporter tells a story (in tweets) about his depression and learning of his mother’s suicide.

Bonus II: GoPro camera falls from plane. Pig tries to eat it.

Bonus III: Jacky Chamoun, a Lebanese skier, deals with fallout from topless photos (The Washington Post).

And there’s the occasional bottomless photo to consider also:

TODAY’S QUESTION
Are attractive people given unfair advantages in your workplace?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Young Christian conservatives and the GOP. (Rebroadcast)

Second hour: The Buddha always looks so peaceful and serene no matter where you spot his image in this chaotic world. Just how can a person find the peace the Buddha projects in their busy daily life? Modern day Buddhist and teacher Lodro Rinzler is the “cool kids Buddhist” who offers practical advice for the young kids of Generation Y. His latest book Walk Like a Buddha offers advice for those suffering a hangover, gritting their teeth through a workday or navigating bad dates to good people. (Rebroadcast)

Third hour: Krista Tippett joins Kerri Miller to talk about “the adventure of civility.” That was the title of speech Tippett gave at Stanford last fall. She urged her audience of teachers and civic leaders to be the catalysts for productive, hospitable and tolerant conversation.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm) – Garrison Keillor’s talk from the Public Radio Program Directors Conference.

The Takeaway (1-2 p.m.) – How does the Northeast storm stack up with others in history?

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – The state’s rainy-day fund could get a significant boost this year, as long as Minnesota’s next economic forecast still shows the budget running a surplus when it’s released at the end of the month. DFL leaders in the Senate have said increasing the budget reserve is a high priority for them in 2014. A bill to accomplish that has also been introduced in the House. MPR’s Tim Pugmire will have the story.

Artist Jim Hodges makes extraordinary things from everyday items. Old denim becomes an epic skyscape, light sockets and bulbs become sculpture, and ancient boulders become modern art. This weekend the Walker Art Center opens “Give More than You Take,” a show featuring a quarter century of Hodge’s work. MPR’s Euan Kerr talks with him.

Last month’s chemical spill into a West Virginia river sent hundreds of thousands of residents scrambling for bottled water. Since then, the national headlines have faded. But peoples fear of the local drinking water has not.
NPR revisits the issue one month later.

  • MrE85

    1) Here’s hoping Stefan is right.
    3) I find the details of the unfortunate brawl less interesting than the political fight behind it. In short, who do the people of 60B want to represent them in Saint Paul? I really don’t know…
    5) This is a great resource. Now I’m thinking about going.

  • MrE85
  • Mitch

    I really want to know the story behind how they managed to recover that camera.

    • Gary

      According to the brief note on the Youtube page, the guys who dropped it didn’t recover it. The person who found the camera posted it online.

  • Jim G

    Bonus 2: One moment we’re flying high, then Oops! 30 seconds later: pig food. This clip shows in a compressed format (think years of falling instead of seconds) the economic plight of the middle/working class over the past 30 years.

  • Starquest

    To me the issue is less about him being openly gay, and more about there currently being no openly gay men in pro sports. Sure, there will be weirdness and media circuses and all that. That all happened when Jackie Robinson joined MLB. It probably happens when any sort of minority makes an entrance. What we need is for there to be more of them. A lot more. Then all the weirdness goes away. In the meantime, there are growing pains. I don’t see how you get around that.

    I frankly hope the Packers draft him. Our team needs help on defense like you wouldn’t believe and this guy looks like an awesome player.

    • andy

      I agree, for truly selfish reasons, I kind of hope he does drop in the draft and maybe the Packers can snag him. They definitely need help on defense.

  • http://scottolstad.com/ Scott

    #2) “I’m all for freedom of expression. You wanna splatter paint on a canvas and you can get somebody to buy that shit? Do you. However, there’s a fine line between claiming freedom of expression and producing truly oppressive works for mere shock value.” Does anybody else notice the contradiction there? If you’re selling your work, then it isn’t “merely” for shock value, it’s for money. Do you.

    This is art. It invoked such a passionate response from her, she brought her 12-year-old brother to the museum and discussed the racial implications and historical context of the photo with him. Isn’t that what we want art to do? Make us feel something and help us connect with others?

    She also doesn’t do a great job of assigning blame. I can’t tell if she’s upset with the artist for making offensive art, at the curator for choosing that art for the Walker, at the Walker for not doing more to attract diverse patrons, or all of the above. Melgaard gets the blame, but the curator’s name isn’t even mentioned. Isn’t the curator more responsible for the images in the exhibit?

    Art is great. Look at all the discussion it prompts!

    Bonus #2) Here’s another Go-Pro trip. Don’t stand while watching it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLDYtH1RH-U

  • joetron2030

    #2: While not directly related to a piece of art or reaction to a piece of art, this item and the reaction by the Walker employee reminded me of the true power of words in my own life.

    Having grown up in MN, I was frequently the recipient of the slur “chink”. To this day, I cannot avoid flinching when I hear that word even when it’s used to describe a fault in a piece of armor. So, I can empathize completely with that woman’s reaction.