Michael Sam and the Bullies Masquerading as Victims

A dominant group cannot claim it is being discriminated against when it begins to lose its power to disenfranchise.
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It was inevitable. As a sports writer covering Notre Dame football for the past two years, I knew it was only a matter of time before I would personally encounter dialogue regarding Michael Sam, the first openly gay football player to be drafted into the NFL. While scanning through a professional message board containing several football insiders I occasionally follow, I stumbled across a comment made by a Division III football coach sparked by Michael Sam's recent NFL draft selection by the St. Louis Rams.

To paraphrase, the Division III football coach's message was simple: He objected to same-sex marriage on moral grounds and was tired of being bullied for his beliefs. He does not believe same-sex marriage should be legal, but was sure to mitigate his statement by saying no malice resides in his heart, channeling the spirit of the often used phrase, "Love the sinner, hate the sin."

The true meaning of the Division III coach's statement, once translated after traversing the carefully crafted attempt at political correctness, is, "I don't hate same-sex couples -- I just don't believe they should have hospital visitation rights when one becomes ill. I don't believe they should be entitled to bereavement leave should their partner, or the relative of a partner, pass away. I don't believe they should have the right to access one another's healthcare, file taxes jointly, or simply experience the joy of pledging their love and loyalty to one another in front of family and friends, and to have that pledge recognized legally."

"Love the sinner, hate the sin," may be a popular saying, but so is the phrase, "Actions speak louder than words."

What the Division III coach was really doing was playing the role of the dominant victim. A dominant victim dynamic occurs when an individual associated with a dominant group discriminates against a disenfranchised group, all while claiming to be discriminated against for practicing discrimination. As of 2013 there were six openly gay or bisexual members of Congress out of 535 seats, meaning openly gay or bisexual members represent 1.1 percent of Congress.

Given such political representation, who's really being bullied here?

The dominant victim card is nothing new, and something American statesman James Madison feared. Madison voiced concern over the power of majority rule, arguing government should "protect the minority of the opulent against the majority" in order to combat the "turbulency and weakness of unruly passions."

Such "unruly passions" of the majority have occurred numerous times throughout American history. It can be seen during the women's suffrage movement that led to women earning the right to vote. President William Howard Taft, an opponent of the suffrage movement, expressed a common, yet completely unfounded, sentiment of the time involving the irrationality of women.

"It is fair to say the immediate enfranchisement of women will increase the proportion of the hysterical element of the electorate."

Popular political cartoons of the era portrayed women as tall, strong and opinionated, while characterizing men as shorter, hunched and defeated. The implication was that women were a dominant force controlling modes of power, when in reality, not one member of the 66th Congress was female.

The dominant victim card was also played leading up to the Civil War when Southern business owners objected to the federal government prying into their business practices, even when those business practices involved enslavement. Such attitudes are still in existence to this day, as a friend of mine from South Carolina informed me, the Civil War was taught to her as the "War of Northern Aggression."

The dominant victim card popped up again in the form of Jim Crow laws proclaiming "separate but equal" facilities for African-Americans. When objections to these practices, such as refusing to serve African-Americans at restaurants, began to appear during the Civil Rights movement, business owners complained their right to serve whomever they pleased was being violated. All of the examples detailed involved a dominant group in a position of power claiming to be a victim, when in reality they were practicing discrimination against a group that lacked the political power to protect itself.

A dominant group cannot claim it is being discriminated against when it begins to lose its power to disenfranchise. In essence, the Division III football coach cannot say he is a victim of bullying when his beliefs are violating the rights of a segment of American society that lacks the political ability to protect itself.

One of the fundamental skills necessary for success in football is the ability to adapt. It's time the sport of football and those affiliated with it accept the door Michael Sam courageously opened is here to stay, and we're all the better for it.

Scott Janssen covers Notre Dame football for UHND.com and has appeared on MSNBC as a sports contributor. He received his Master's degree in political science from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, MI. He can be reached at scottjanssenhp@gmail.com.

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