It was over two years ago now that Jason Somerville wrote a blog post where he announced to the world he was gay. At the time, it was massive news in the poker industry and the mainstream media picked it up as well. The first openly gay male poker player was a media sensation.
Fast forward to now and you see just how far this industry has come. Nobody refers to Somerville as “that gay poker player” — he’s an Ultimate Poker sponsored player who hosts a very popular web series called Run It Up where legions of his fans learn poker from him. His personal life just isn’t part of the story.
Take a quick look at the 2014 NFL draft and how prospect Michael Sam is being treated. In February, he came out as gay. At the NFL combine, where players are tested on all kinds of physical skills, a lot of the questions reporters had for Sam were about his sexuality, not his ability to get pressure on the QB in a 4-3 defense. Sam eventually called the media out while answering their questions.
“I just wish you guys would see me as Michael Sam the football player instead of Michael Sam the gay football player,” Sam said.
In April, poker pro D.J. MacKinnon took to his blog and also came out of the closet and in the process became the second openly gay male poker player. The poker community took notice, congratulated MacKinnon, and moved on. It wasn’t to diminish MacKinnon’s decision to come out, but it was a sign that the poker industry, media included, is doing what Michael Sam wishes the NFL could do — judge a player for his (or her) talents and nothing else.
That shrug-of-the-shoulders response to MacKinnon’s coming out is something poker players — and the industry itself — should be proud of.
Editor in Chief