Vince Pryor has written a very moving and compelling piece for Outsports about black gay men breaking barriers in the sports world.
Pryor, a former standout linebacker for TCU in the early 90s, came out to his teammates before the team's bowl game against Texas Tech his senior season. He went out and set the school sack record in TCU's 24-17 victory.
Pryor tells theGrio.com that, as a black man, watching Jason Collins, Michael Sam and Derrick Gordon make history in their respective sports makes him proud and able to better reflect on his own journey:
"The success of Collins, Sam and Gordon provides a beacon and a road map. First, it sends a message to young black gay men that they are not alone. Despite all of the negative language they've heard on the streets, on the field, in the locker room and even in their church – there is someone to look up to."
Pryor owns a restaurant just north of Chicago but tries to spend any free time he has speaking to young people about LGBT issues and sports. He says the reactions to some of the recent sports breakthroughs have been mixed, but he remains hopeful.
"When you're not the object of ridicule or scorn or demoralization, you really don't think too much of it," Pryor said of critics who downplay the significance of these moments. "What the stories of Michael Sam, Derrick Gordon and Jason Collins illustrate is that there's other people who are struggling. Whether or not these gentleman want to be role models or not, they do provide a light for people to say 'Hey, it's ok to be who I am.'"
Pryor said the majority of people who feel like Michael Sam "should just play football," and that the media should "move on" are actually allies to LGBT causes.
"Some people want to normalize it, but they also need to consider the impact of this situation happening now," Pryor said. "I think it speaks to people's uneasiness about the issue or where they come from too. You can say that you're colorblind — but you've never been pulled over six times for "driving while black." Years from now, Michael Sam may not be a big deal. But we're not there yet."
Saturday, the St. Louis Rams made Sam the 249th pick in the NFL's final round. Tuesday, the team introduced Sam to the media officially.
Pryor feels for Sam because he said the 24-year-old is in a "no-win" situation.
"Listen, all I wanted to do was go and play football and get out there as soon as possible," Pryor said. "[Sam] is in a unique situation because he is a role model for being the first gay man drafted. We have to be careful to be too critical on either side of the fence because it's unchartered territory. If he stumbles in either direction, we shouldn't hold him as 'less than' for being human."
Pryor said he was too often told as a child, either directly or indirectly, that being gay was not associated with "being a man." Part of the reason he wrote the column for Outsports is that he's come to realize that the "persona" he believed he needed to take on to be a black man was "(expletive).":
"Instead of learning what a black man should aspire to be, I learned what a black man wasn't supposed to be. And the clearest message of this was that a black man should not be feminine."
(To read Pryor's full piece: Outsports)
(Follow theGrio.com's Todd Johnson on Twitter @rantoddj)