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Are Republicans Afraid to Talk About Michael Sam?

Getty Images: Ronald Martinez

Michael Sam’s announcement that he is gay is a watershed moment. He won’t be the first gay player in professional football, for sure, but he’ll be the first one to declare so openly. And the best part? The reaction has been mostly positive, even in places you might expect to be full of negativity. Among the first to announce their support publicly were officials at the NFL league offices and Seattle Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith, who just happens to be the reigning Super Bowl MVP. “There is no room for bigotry in American sports,” Smith tweeted. “It takes courage to change the culture.”

Yes, some players groused and a bunch of anonymous NFL insiders gave Sports Illustrated quotes warning that Sam would struggle and disrupt locker-room chemistry. But the anonymity of those comments were quite a tell—once upon a time, not so long ago, an NFL scout or general manager wouldn’t think twice about suggesting a gay player had no place in professional sports. Better still, the supposition itself was transparently thin on evidence. Sam had told his University of Missouri teammates about his sexual orientation before the season started. They handled it just fine, as my colleague Marc Tracy noted, respecting Sam’s privacy (he wasn't yet ready to make a public statement) and advancing with him to the Conference Championship. As if to erase any doubt, one of sam’s former teammates, linebacker Kentrell Brothers, tweeted his own statement of support: “It takes a lot of courage to do what he did. And we are behind him all the way.”

The announcement was so big that it also got attention in the political world. First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden each issued personally signed tweets praising Sam. So did several Democratic senators, including Clare McCaskill of Missouri. But do you know who hasn’t made a statement? Missouri’s other senator, the Republican—Roy Blunt. And there’s been a similarly odd split in the media. Pretty much every left-of-center publication has weighed in—Mother Jones, the Nation, and the American Prospect all had something to say. There appears to be nothing at National Review or the Weekly Standard. The Fox News seems similarly bereft of commentary.

In fact, the only conservative punditry on Sam I’ve seen was an odd, if predictably unpleasant, rant from Rush Limbaugh.

Now it’s entirely possible the conservative commentary supporting Sam is out there and I’ve just missed it. My search abilities are only as good as Google’s. It’s equally possible Republicans and conservatives are preoccupied with other, genuinely pressing issues—like, for example, Obamacare’s latest regulatory delay. (Hey, that took a bunch of my time, too.) I know and like tons of people on the right. I bet most of them were as happy about this development as I was. A few weeks ago, MSNBC famously did the right wing a serious wrong by by suggesting, through a tweet, that conservatives must have a problem with interracial marriages. That’s quite obviously not true.

So here’s an invitation, delivered with total sincerity, to conservatives I know and to those I don’t. It would be quite a statement if the voices supporting Sam came from the left and the right. If you have made one, send it to me. If not, make one now—in an article or, if you prefer, on twitter—and send that instead.  (And if you work for Sen. Blunt, answer the query I just left with your office and on email.) 

I’ll add the first few to this item as updates, so the question in the headline of this article can have an answer. 

Update: I'd missed this one: 

And here are some new ones: