When Michael Sam Jr. was a member of the Dallas Cowboys practice squad, he lived just a few miles from his 55-year-old father, Michael Sam Sr., who's wheelchair-bound in a nursing home in the Dallas suburb of DeSoto, Texas.
Some family members hoped the short distance would allow the largely estranged men to reconcile, but according to BuzzFeed's Joel Anderson, they never spoke, instead exchanging only a few text messages.
In his in-depth piece about the Sams' complicated father-son relationship, Anderson attempts to resolve discrepancies between Michael Sr.'s version of events and how they were portrayed by the media and publicists in the wake of Michael Jr.'s coming out. Michael Jr. declined to be interviewed for the story.
It's a rather heartbreaking tale that recounts how Michael Jr.'s sister drowned at 2, while one brother was shot to death, another disappeared, and two others have spent much of their lives behind bars. When Michael Jr. was born, his parents had divorced, but they would later remarry before splitting for good.
Even so, Michael Sr. claims he put a roof over his son's head — while the media has reported that a white family in the small town of Hitchcock, Texas, where Michael Jr. grew up, took care of him. Michael Sr., who taught his son to play football, swears he attended every one of Michael Jr.'s home games during his senior year of high school — but one of his son's coaches disputes that.
Media reports portrayed Michael Sr. as a stereotypically absent black father and a homophobe who had rejected his son. But BuzzFeed's Anderson seems to conclude that at this point, it's more about Michael Jr. rejecting his father and other family members, though perhaps understandably.
In any case, Michael Sr. insists that the distance between them should have little to do with the fact that his son is gay. Although Michael Sr. told a local newspaper that he loved his son unconditionally, his comments to The New York Times have been more widely publicized: “I don’t want my grandkids raised in that kind of environment. I’m old school. I’m a man-and-a-woman type of guy.”
But as Anderson, who visited Michael Sr. in Texas, puts it:
Michael Sr. is never going to be the spokesman for Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. He’s not thrilled about his son’s sexual orientation. But he also hasn’t disowned his son. He never says his son is going to hell. He doesn’t talk about trying to cure him or make him straight. In his own rough-hewn, coarse way, Michael Sr. has accepted that his son is gay. “I love my son,” he said, “and I don’t care about what he do.”
Read the full story here.