Masculinity in the National Football League : gayness and desire in America's pastime.



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When Michael Sam was selected in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft, he instantly became the first openly-gay professional football player. This thesis takes that exigency to interrogate the rhetorical dimensions of masculinity within professional football, and Sam’s impact upon them. The case studies examine Sam’s kiss on the night of the draft, the 2003 television series Playmakers, and the open letters written by Brendon Ayanbadejo and Chris Kluwe from before, during, and after Sam’s brief tenure in the League. Arguing for an expanded rhetorical understanding of how masculinity is understood and performed within the hypermasculinity of the League, this project navigates gender, sexuality and race within one of the most powerful organizations in the world. Though Sam did not even last a full season, his rhetorical impact continues to this day, and continues to shape masculinity and desire in the National Football League.