This commentary explores the root of the virulent reactions to openly gay defensive end Michael Sam’s draft by the National Football League’s St. Louis Rams. Applauding his selection, the commentary offers a detailed analysis of the ESPN video that showed Michael Sam receiving the news with his male partner Vito Cammisano, their kisses, and cake smearing celebration. The essay then posits as a central thesis that it was the “cake play” which caused the most discomfit. In doing so, the essay examines Sam’s selection event through a lens of heteronormative constructs and explains how, for fans and the institution alike, the NFL and Draft Day are sites to perform, recreate, and reinforce masculine discourses. In surfacing the hypocrisy beneath those discourses, the essay also considers the ways in which Sam’s race and sexuality informed reactions to his draft. By integrating communication, interpersonal, and media theory frameworks with feminist and race critiques of masculinity, the commentary is a perspective on what was nothing less than a revolutionary event — the televised admission of an openly gay man into the NFL.
Michael Sam: Upending NFL Heteronormativity with a Piece of Cake, 17 Tex. Rev. Ent. & Sports L. 33