Jason Collins and Michael Sam Recast View of Black Manhood

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"While I can't speak for every African American -- opinions are just as broad and different as any people can be -- our stance within the church has been more about human rights than gay and lesbian rights," he said. "Whether or not we agree as individuals within the church or as a body of believers, it would never be our stance to block someone from pursuing their career. More power to Jason Collins and Michael Sam in their pursuit of a professional sports career."

McLeod of Elixher magazine said she hoped Collins and Sam might dispel the "narratives" about homophobia in the sports world, as well as create new role models for African-American youth.

"We talk about black people and athletes like they are monolithically homophobic," she said. "But most NFL players polled have said they don't think sexual orientation matters."

Traditionally, in the world of music and the media, black manhood has been viewed as "surrounded by wealth and how many women you can have or be with; those have been the examples of power for black men," she said.

But with Collins and Sam in the rough-and-tumble world of professional sports, "manhood looks like a very different thing," McLeod said. "Being gay doesn't make you any less of a man. You can be both.

"Being gay is only one part of your identity, but it doesn't completely define you. You can exist at these multiple identities as a whole and full person."

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