If you have a Facebook, you’ve probably scrolled by a clip of Dale Hansen pontificating sometime in the past couple of days. A two-minute clip (see above) of the Dallas sportscaster offering his thoughts on top NFL prospect Michael Sam‘s coming out has been shared over 200,000 times on the social networking site. In a righteous rant that even Upworthy “wouldn’t believe,” Hansen laid out the lunatic morality that governs what does and does not make the NFL uncomfortable.
Here’s what you need to know about Hansen:
1. He Asked Why NFL Is Comfortable With Rapists But Not Gays
Hansen opened his commentary with sarcasm, pointing out that the most shocking thing about the SEC’s defensive player of the year, a prospect expected to be a third to fifth-round pick in the NFL draft, coming out as gay, was that the SEC’s best defensive player wouldn’t be only a third to fifth round pick.
In the wake of Michael Sam’s coming out, several NFL executives gave anonymous quotes to Sports Illustrated many expressing skepticism that a gay player could be accepted in an NFL locker room, one GM saying:
“We talked about it this week. First of all, we don’t think he’s a very good player. The reality is he’s an overrated football player in our estimation. Second: He’s going to have expectations about where he should be drafted, and I think he’ll be disappointed. He’s not going to get drafted where he thinks he should. The question you will ask yourself, knowing your team, is, ‘How will drafting him affect your locker room?’ And I am sorry to say where we are at this point in time, I think it’s going to affect most locker rooms. A lot of guys will be uncomfortable. Ten years from now, fine. But today, I think being openly gay is a factor in the locker room.”
What made Hansen’s commentary most powerful then, was the way he laid out in stark terms what does and does not make an NFL locker room uncomfortable, according to the logic of its executives:
“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!”
Hansen went on to admit personal discomfort when men have told him that they’re gay, but said he was committed to overcoming these limitations in his perspective, becoming the first Texas sportscaster to quote civil rights activist Audre Lourde, saying:
“it is not our differences that divide us. It’s our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”
2. He Was Surprised His Comment Got Such a Big Reaction
The Huffington Post reached out to Hansen for comment, after his segment had gone viral, Hansen responded by email writing:
“Some people don’t seem to believe this — I honestly didn’t think it was going to be that big a deal. I write only what I believe — and I simply believe what I wrote. Seems like common sense to me — nothing more or less.”
He noted that he’d recieved over 700 “overwhelmingly positive” emails from all over the US, and from one high-school boy in Canada.
3. He’s Been One of Texas’ Top Sportscasters For 30 Years
Hansen first joined ABC affiliate WFAA in 1983. According to his station bio, Hansen got his start as a radio disc jockey in Newton, Iowa. He later worked as a sports reporter in Omaha, Nebraska.
In his 30 years with Dallas’ Channel 8, Hansen has been named national Sportscaster of the Year by the AP twice, Best Texas Sportscaster three times, and TV Personality of the Year, by American Women in Radio and Television.
4. Hansen Once Got SMU the Death Penalty
Prior to his stunningly non-homophobic thoughts on Michael Sam, Hansen was perhaps best known for his 1986 investigative report into a players payment scandal that resulted in Southern Methodist University receiving the first ever NCAA “death penalty.”
Hansen’s reporting revealed that the university stayed competitive in recruitment against larger opponents by paying top players from out of a slush fund started in the mid-70’s. Payments ranged from $50 to $725 per month. The NCAA responded by canceling SMU’s 1987 season, canceling all home games for 1988, and banning them from bowl contention until 1990.
Before this penalty, SMU was a perennial NCAA powerhouse. After, SMU would not return to a bowl game until 2009. Producing only two ranked teams and three winning seasons in the interim.
Hansen was rewarded with a Peabody and several death threats, including “a package that contained a dead bird with a broken neck and a note pinned to its chest stating he was next.”
In 2011, Hansen returned to SMU to give a lecture as a part of the school’s Distinguished Luncheon Series, reflecting on the scandal 25 years later.
In the last few months, a growing chorus of voices in the sports world and broader commentariot have been arguing that college football players actually should be paid.
The argument is that the NCAA is a multi-billion dollar industry, built off the physically demanding labor of its players, many of whom will have to pay more for health insurance and healthcare for their rest of their lives, due to a few years of competition.
Towards the end of January, Northwestern’s football team submitted a petition, asking the university to allow the players to form a union.
5. Hansen Has Been More Publicly Supportive of Sam, Than His Own Father
The L.A. Times reported yesterday that Michael Sam’s father is struggling with the news of his son’s orientation. Michael Sam Senior received a text from his son on Feb. 6, which read simply, “Dad, I’m gay.” He told the paper after reading the text:
““I couldn’t eat no more, so I went to Applebee’s to have drinks. 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.”
He went on to mention he had taken Sam’s older brother to Mexico to lose his virginity, and that Hall of Famer Deacon Jones would turn over in his grave at the idea of a gay man in the NFL.
His son told the Times that he’s always been closer to his friends than to his family.
His father said that he loved his son nonetheless, and hoped he’d succeed in the NFL:
“As a black man, we have so many hurdles to cross. This is just one he has to cross.”