When Johnny Manziel said he didn’t think the world could handle it if the Dallas Cowboys drafted him, he was kidding, but he could have said the same thing about Michael Sam and every NFL team but the Rams.No nation does a better job of lying to itself about acceptance, and no league did a better job of opening its arms to Sam, while basically lying to his face when it was time to add him to a roster.When Sam smooched his boyfriend for ESPN’s cameras after he was selected, we saw an ugly side.Former NFL running back Derrick Ward unknowingly spoke for a lot of people when he tweeted: “I’m sorry but that Michael Sam is no bueno for doing that on national TV. I’m fine with it being a new day [and] age but for him to do that on National TV is disgusting. Gay or not.”To be clear — if Sam was kissing a trophy female, it’s disgusting?If Sam was kissing a trophy female, Brent Musberger would have made her an overnight celebrity, Google would have broke with people searching her name and she would be on The Bachelor by the end of the week.Ward wasn’t alone going the social media route to show his disdain for Sam. Dolphins safety Don Jones was fined and excused from team activities for tweeting “Omg” and “horrible” after the smooch.It’s fine for Sam to be gay, provided he stays in the closet.The NFL said it would accept Sam, but the draft exposed reluctance. Acceptance would have been to treat Sam like every other draftee.Real progress would have been to tweet after Sam’s smooch: “Sam is an #NFLDraft pick and that’s his SO? TRADE UP!” or “Sam’s boyfriend needs a nose job” or “The guy Sam is a 7th-rd pick, which is #NFL for — Can’t play” That would have been progress.There is no good reason why the SEC co-defensive player of the year fell to the seventh round other than GMs were scared. If Sam never comes out, he is drafted no later than the fourth round.Football is all about toughness and physical combat. Yet when it comes down to it, the NFL is still scared — along with a lot of America, which can’t manage to shed its Puritanical roots.To pretend Ward and Jones are that much different than Donald Sterling is to pretend one bigotry is acceptable while another is not. People who tried to explain away Sterling’s words said he was just an old man who was a product of his generation. So we can use this excuse for anyone who agrees with Ward and Jones? Just because a person is a product of his generation doesn’t give him the OK to be a racist, a bigot, an anti-Semite or anything of the kind.Spare me the Biblical argument about this, too. A mere 50 years ago, people used the Bible to condone bigotry. Now it’s chic to use the Good Book to back up prejudice against gays.There are still far more Wards, Sterlings and Joneses running around than we want to admit. We’re talking about a kiss.Indiana Pacers forward David West nailed it when, after Sterling’s comments were revealed, he told the Indianapolis Star: “You can’t be naïve about the thoughts and mindsets of (some) people in this country. We live in this sort of reality anyway where we understand that people … have all types of perceptions toward us, whether good or bad. I guess being an athlete or entertainer, people can come cheer for you, but as soon as the game is over, they are who they are and they think how they think, they feel how they feel.“I’m not naïve to that. I don’t think our society has all of a sudden changed and people who are in power all of a sudden think different about us, just because you dribble a basketball or catch a (darn) football, it’s just not the reality of it.”From high above on Google Satellite, America is integrated and flowing. At street level, the view is much different. We congregate with those who are like — and act — just like us.The reaction to Sam getting drafted wasn’t all bad. According to NFLShop.com, the second-best-selling rookie jersey, behind Manziel’s, is Sam’s. The other top sellers were first-round picks.But the draft confirmed what we feared when Michael Sam came out: The NFL wasn’t ready for him, and neither is a lot of America. Follow Mac Engel on The Big Mac Blog at star-telegram.com/sports/.
Mac Engel, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @macengelprof