The drafting of Michael Sam into the NFL was an historic moment, but reactions to the first openly gay NFL player kissing his boyfriend in celebration made for a story of their own. Among those reactions was The Miami Dolphins’ Don Jones, who was fined and suspended for his negative comments on Twitter. The Family Research Council reacted as well, but offered two different perspectives to two different audiences.
In FRC’s daily email to followers Monday, Tony Perkins explained that by airing the clip of Sam kissing his boyfriend, both the NFL and ESPN had made a “graphic political statement.” He highlighted the reaction of Former Super Bowl Champ Derek Ward, who had tweeted that the kiss was “disgusting” and that “little kids” should not have been exposed to it. Perkins described the responses to Ward’s tweets as either “hateful” or “supportive.”
But then, on Fox News’ The Kelly File Monday night, Perkins changed the focus of his argument for the network’s wider audience to one of free speech. Rather than criticizing the kiss or the fact that ESPN aired it — as he did in the newsletter — he instead attempted to juxtapose Michael Sam’s expression of kissing his boyfriend in his own home to Tim Tebow trying to display Bible verses under his eyes while on the field. Even when confronted with Jones’ reaction that the kiss was “horrible,” Perkins claimed that was simply “expression” and that fairness requires room for anti-gay positions: “If Sam is going to express himself, Jones and everybody else ought to be able to express themselves, as well.”
According to Perkins, NFL players are “losing the right to free speech,” going so far as to suggest that “this is a brave new world.” Incidentally, it was just a year and a half ago that a Maryland lawmaker, Del. Emmett C. Burns Jr. (D), was writing to the Baltimore Ravens demanding that Brendon Ayanbadejo be sanctioned because he spoke out for marriage equality. Burns had previously worked directly with various anti-gay groups trying to fight marriage equality in Maryland.
Perkins’ disgust was not the only such reaction among those in the professional anti-gay movement. Over at OneNewsNow, a news site run by the American Family Association (AFA), anti-gay activist Michael Brown took exception to the idea that he should be okay with Sam’s kiss: “Heaven forbid you express any displeasure with this homosexual moment, especially if you’re an NFL player or coach. All perceived ‘homophobia’ will be prosecuted sternly.” AFA’s Bryan Fischer added that the NFL should instead be urging Sam to “pursue reparative [ex-gay] therapy in the hopes of saving his life” because of the “health risks of homosexual behavior.
While conservatives have been quick to condemn Sam’s kiss and defend his detractors under the guise of “free speech,” they seem to have little problem with the fact that NFL players kiss their wives and girlfriends all the time.