As many of you know, I hate Upworthy-style headlines like “This Little Girl DESTROYS Every Republican Talking Point In 30 Seconds!” or “A 16-Year-Old Explains Why Everything You Thought You Knew About Beauty May Be Wrong. With Math.” Why? It’s not that I’m some crotchety old man stuck in a 30-year-old body, it’s because when EVERY single headline screams “Click ME! Click ME! I’m EPIC! I PROMISE! This will change EVERYTHING!” it makes us all jaded and cynical when something that truly should be on the front page of Reddit or on every Facebook page fails to be because it’s discounted as another clickbait story.
Sadly, too many people have found it easier to just embed a YouTube video into an article that consists of a few snarky sentences summarizing the video, add a sensationalized headline with one word like “DESTROYED” – and collect the ad dollars that come rolling in off easy web traffic. I don’t write that way, I won’t write that way, and I refuse to ever do so. However, this story is really that powerful that I felt compelled to write about it.
This week, the Dallas TV station WFAA found themselves with a surprising viral sensation when sports anchor Dale Hansen dropped a simple but powerful message about gay football player Michael Sam and the acceptance of gay athletes in the sport. If you aren’t familiar with Texas, football is absolutely huge there. Many high schools have football stadiums there that would put many college stadiums to shame and the sport is pretty much a close second religion to many, many people.
So if this had been California or New York or some other blue state, this wouldn’t have been that big of deal because after all, it’s safe in those areas to say what Mr. Hansen said and not worry about losing your job. He didn’t mince words and eviscerated the culture surrounding the sport of football (a sport he covers regularly on WFAA) with this following video:
You would expect something like this – especially in Texas where the sport of football is second only to Jesus for a lot of folks – would find Mr. Hansen hurriedly updating his resume or headed for retirement. But it didn’t.
“You beat a woman and drag her down a flight of stairs, pulling her hair out by the roots? You’re the fourth guy taken in the NFL draft… You kill people while driving drunk? That guy’s welcome… Players caught in hotel rooms with illegal drugs and prostitutes? We know they’re welcome… Players accused of rape and pay the woman to go away? You lie to police trying to cover up a murder? We’re comfortable with that… You love another man? Well, now you’ve gone too far! It wasn’t that long ago when we were being told that black players couldn’t play in ‘our’ games because it would be ‘uncomfortable.’” (Source)
I know that if I were a TV anchor here in Louisiana (or elsewhere in the Bible Belt) and had gone on TV anywhere other than perhaps New Orleans with this message, the station would be deluged with emails, phone calls and angry Facebook comments demanding an immediate resignation – or even worse.
We can take a couple of lessons away from this story. First, Texas (especially the major cities) is far more progressive and tolerant than many people give it credit for. As I have previously mentioned, Texas will be going blue, and it’s happening a lot faster than some people think. Second, never assume that just because someone fits a common stereotype that they’ll say the expected.
“They see a big, fat old guy from Dallas, Texas, and they thought they knew what the redneck was going to say,” he said. “I guess they were wrong.”
Yes, Mr. Hansen, many people were wrong – and we thank you for standing up for equality.
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