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Southeast AD Alnutt: Gay Players Would Be Accepted Here

Southeast Missouri State University
Southeast Missouri State University Athletic Director Mark Alnutt.

University of Missouri football player and potential NFL draft pick Michael Sam has been making headlines with his recent announcement that he is gay. Countless students, team members and coaches have proven to be supportive of Sam but some speculate on how Southeast Missouri State University would handle the situation.

Sam announced to his team last year that he was gay. With his most recent announcement, Sam has received encouragement and backlash. Some are afraid this will affect his career when being considered for the NFL, but his school has been supportive in his decision to be openly gay.

Southeast Missouri State University has yet to deal with a situation like this, but it is possible that in the future, Southeast will have to encounter this issue. The football coaches at Southeast did not respond to request for comment on how the football team would handle or react to a similar situation.

Mark Alnutt, the athletic director at Southeast and a former University of Missouri football player, made a statement in an email on how he felt the situation would be dealt with at Southeast.

“We educate our student-athletes and staff to have respect for others,” Alnutt wrote. “This respect is due to the fact that everyone is different and come from varied backgrounds which include age, ability, nationality, race religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic, etc.

“We do not tolerate harassment at any level. I firmly believe that if the Michael Sam situation happened here, it would be very similar to Mizzou, one of acceptance from within the particular sport program, athletic department and the University community,” Alnutt wrote.

Daniel Eckert, president of the Gay Straight Alliance at Southeast, said he doubts it would be that easy. While Eckert is confident that the university would support any member of the gay community, he said there are no official policies in place to protect an athlete or the university from backlash. Eckert believes it is possible the university would have trouble handling the backlash that may occur from the surrounding area.

“I would highly doubt that they would allow someone who is openly gay to be on their team simply because if any kind of discrimination did happen against them, if they were threatened or attacked, SEMO has nothing in place to protect [students] for that situation,” Eckert said. “This university is very behind any protections for the LGBT community in that there’s no co-habitations stuff, there’s nothing in the constitution for sexual orientation or gender identity or anti-discrimination. So I feel like even if they were OK with him being openly gay, they wouldn’t be OK for him to be on there simply because he might get threatened or he might get attacked and they have no way to protect him.”

Eckert said he still hopes that if this were to occur at Southeast, the university as a whole would offer support and encouragement. As a member of the gay community, he is inspired by Sam’s courage and hopes the decision to come out will not negatively affect his career.

“I thought he was really brave to do something like that, especially since not too long ago there was a football team that got on the news saying outright that they believe that gay people shouldn’t be allowed in football,” Eckert said.

“I think it shows that it’s worth it to come out because I know a lot of people are scared because of the repercussions. But I think in the end if you don’t do it people won’t realize how good of a person you are. People can’t deny that he is a fantastic football player.”

Bailey McCormick was an intern reporter for KRCU in 2014.