BOSTON (CBS) – Donté Stallworth has been making the media rounds lately after being one of the first athletes on Twitter to support Michael Sam, the All-American from Missouri entering the NFL Draft as an openly gay man.
(You can view his timeline of tweets here)
The former Patriots wide receiver is of the mind that if your organization can’t handle a “distraction” like this – one that you know about months before the draft, OTAs, training camp and the regular season – then you’re probably not a very good team to begin with.
“I’ve been on teams with major potential distractions and it’s never been an issue, so in my mind that tells me that the distraction excuse is something that people are using to try to avoid the situation altogether,” Stallworth told 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich Wednesday morning.
On Sam, the fact that he put his personal life out there like this “is a testament of his courage” according to Stallworth, and the people in Missouri who know him best all praise his work ethic and character – which is what should matter the most.
Stallworth has been on many types of teams during his 10 years in the league, whether it be veteran, young, mature or immature, and he’s never been around organizations that handle situations like this better than the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens.
Bill Belichick and John Harbaugh are two of the best coaches in the NFL, but the way in which they handle distractions are completely different.
“Bill’s approach would be more of ‘You speak for yourself. Don’t speak for any of your other teammates, let them speak for themselves and do your job’ – and that’s what he requires from his team.
“With Baltimore, John is huge on family and everyone getting along. If you have an issue with anything going on with the team he doesn’t want you to be a mouse and crawl in the corner. He wants everyone to speak up. We’re a family, we’re going to have disagreements and arguments but we’re in this thing together.
“It would be handled differently in both organizations, but the key is that it would get handled and wouldn’t be a distraction.”
Separate from the question being asked of how teammates will handle a gay player on the roster is the uncertainty of the NFL as a whole being ready for such a groundbreaking event in history.
The former Patriots wide receiver says those aren’t the questions we should be asking.
“As far as the NFL being ready or not that doesn’t really matter too much, because it’s almost like, ‘Was America ready to integrate blacks into schools, or other public establishments?’ No they probably weren’t ready, but it was happening and they had to get ready for it, so it’s all about progressing.
“To me it’s ‘Can the kid play football or not?’ Is he going to be able to help your team win ball games? Yes I think he can,” Stallworth concluded.
Listen below for the full discussion: