PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Connor Barwin is different than what you’d expect an NFL linebacker to be off the field. An overall socially conscious person, who listens to indie rock and is vocal about being ‘green’ and taking public transportation is not what you’d expect from a guy whose job is to hit other people as hard as he can.
So Barwin’s perspective on the NFL’s locker room culture, especially given the recent conversations about the Jonathan Martin situation, and Michael Sam’s impending entrance into the league, is bound to be an interesting one.
Barwin pulled back the curtain on his perspective in an essay posted on Sports Illustrated’s The MMQB on Friday.
“What we end up with in the NFL is a room full of 65 of the most athletic, driven, and—let’s face it—reckless men in the country. Not many sane, rational individuals would voluntarily choose to play a game that threatens to take years off your life, possibly lead to CTE, and leave your joints feeling like rusty bicycle chains,” Barwin writes.
Barwin signed with the Eagles prior to the 2013 season, and became a key contributor on a defense that improved by leaps and bounds as the season progressed.
“With so much testosterone and so much ego in one room, the possibility of things going off the rails is very high. Like any workplace, however, the most important stabilizing force is good leadership, from an organizational level, a coaching level, and most importantly a player level,” Barwin says.
Barwin says he’s never encountered anything like was documented in the Miami Dolphins locker room, nor does he find it acceptable.
As for Michael Sam’s acceptance, as a gay man, in the NFL locker room, Barwin believes that his play will dictate his acceptance.
“If Michael Sam can play football, if he proves that he wants to be part of the TEAM, it doesn’t matter who he sleeps with at night. He will not only be accepted in an NFL locker room, he will make it stronger,” Barwin writes. “The most effective way to overcome bigotry is through personal relationships. My older brother, Joe, is gay. I think most guys in the NFL know someone or know someone who knows someone who’s gay. But for some guys in this league, Michael Sam will be the first openly gay man they have ever met. He has a great opportunity to change the stereotypes that many in this country associate with homosexuality. Football is a game where people from all walks of life come together for a common cause, and the game has the unique ability to serve as grounds for social progress. (You guys saw “Remember The Titans,” right?) Michael Sam’s biggest challenge won’t be running backs or offensive lineman. It will be the media.”