Michael Sam as a player for the University of Missouri. Credit: Marcus Qwertyus
There was a lot of news this past weekend about Michael Sam, as he became the first openly gay player drafted by the NFL when he was selected in the seventh-round by the St. Louis Rams.
As great of a story it was, the fact is most seventh-round picks don’t actually make the team, and the chances of Sam making a big impact in the league are slim (although we certainly aren’t counting him out).
But rather than focus on what Sam might be, take a second to what Sam already did. This past August, Sam came out to his teammates at the University of Missouri (he didn’t come out publicly until February), a few weeks before the start of the college football season. And all he did was tie the Missouri record for sacks in a season with 11.5 and he was named the SEC player of the year while Missouri had one of their best seasons in their history.
Think about that. Sam came out to his coaches and players – the first openly gay player in the history of college football (although there certainly were many other gay players and there is a good chance their teammates knew, but still) – in Missouri, aka the heart of the Bible belt. And there was no distraction. No fighting. Not teammates even leaked his secret to the media.
And Missouri had one of its best seasons ever.
When Sam was considered being drafted into the NFL, some media types wondered if Sam would be a “distraction” to the rest of the locker room. The other players wouldn’t accept him, other players would taunt him, etc.
And yet Sam just proved that was not true. He just came off a season where everyone on the team knew he was gay and the team had one of its best seasons ever. The point: stop being afraid of diversity.
How It Applies To You
We often justify not hiring a more diverse workforce by saying we fear that somebody different “wouldn’t be a good fit” or we are worried it would distract others. But that is rubbish. If Sam proves anything, when people are forced to interact with people different than what they are used to, both sides benefit.
So stop making excuses against having a diverse workforce. Because not only is a homogeneous workforce bad for society, it is bad for your business as well.