If you follow sports even a little bit, you know that history was made Saturday when the St. Louis Rams football team took University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam in the seventh round of the NFL draft — the eighth-to-last player selected, No. 279 overall.
The blogs, columnists, talking heads and others weren’t so focused at first on his football acumen but on the fact that Mr. Sam is openly gay, having come out in the spring. He is the first openly gay man to be drafted by any of this country’s four major sports leagues.
But now, the talk has turned to whether the football-elite Southeastern Conference’s co-defensive player of the year was drafted so late just because teams didn’t want to deal with a media circus. Sam himself contends he’s good enough to have been a third-round pick; so-called experts had him pegged anywhere from the third to fifth rounds the past several months.
Mr. Sam — a pioneer — has said repeatedly he is all about football and that his sexual orientation has nothing to do with the sport he loves (and he had not said he believes he fell in the draft because teams were wary). Rams coach Jeff Fisher agrees, saying that if Mr. Sam makes the team’s 53-man roster, it will be because he outplayed others for the job. That’s how it should be.
Sadly, this somewhat mirrors the resignation of Monroe County Circuit Court Judge David Audlin, who announced in April that he is resigning two years into his second six-year term. His resignation letter to “friends and colleagues” gave no reason; it just said it he is going back into private practice. Gov. Rick Scott will appoint a replacement.
In the May 10 Miami Herald, Keys-based reporter Cammy Clark got Judge Audlin to reveal the respected jurist’s reason behind his departure: He is tired of having his privacy invaded because he is gay.
Clark reported that in January, a blogger distributed a profile of Audlin the judge had posted on a gay dating site. The photo was a little risque but certainly nothing to shock. Still, it made the rounds of the South Florida legal community, from the Keys north, reaching countless mainland lawyers, paralegals and others.
Judge Audlin never made a secret of the fact that he is gay. He has ruled fairly from the bench, even in a case in which the state fought — and failed — to keep a gay Key West couple from adopting their foster child.
Clark quoted Mr. Audlin: “I think some people look at a gay judge’s personal life as being interesting or salacious. I suppose it’s the times we live in. This whole matter has nothing to do with my service to the people or my work as a judge.”
Most in the Keys legal community — and that includes criminal and civil defendants — would agree.
Michael Sam, the football player drafted by the Rams, will prove himself on the gridiron. If he can play, he'll make the team.
Judge Audlin, meanwhile, has more than proven himself as a fair arbiter in the courtroom. Sadly, he was driven from it. Truly, this was a miscarriage of justice.
©2014 the Florida Keys