First-ever Openly Gay NFL Hopeful Player Faces Establishment Prejudice
Michael Sam, a senior at Missouri preparing to enter the NFL draft, shook the framework of football by coming out as the sport’s first openly-gay player.
Sam told the New York Times, “I’m a football player, and I’m gay. Is this a huge deal? I understand that it is but my purpose and focus is playing football.”
He’s far from a benchwarmer just trying to make headlines. Sam was voted SEC co-Defensive Player of the Year and team MVP by his Missouri teammates. Sam came out to his teammates in August, and said his fellow Tigers respected and honored his decision to come out.
“They rallied around me, they supported me, and I knew in that moment that this can happen anywhere if my team can support me. And just the love and the support they showed me this past season just showed.,” Sam said.
Since Sam came out to his team, the Tigers rebounded from a brutal 5-7 season in 2012, to winning 12 games in 2013 and the Cotton Bowl.
Despite his great numbers, he’s projected to be a mid-round draft pick due to his stature. His best chance to improve his draft stock will be at the end of the month at the Scouting Combine.
A few NFL scouts and execs see Sam’s coming out as a possible issue and might label him as damaged goods. Here are a few statements some unnamed execs gave to SI.com.
“I just know with this going on this is going to drop him down [in the draf]. There’s no question about it. It’s human nature. Do you want to be the team to quote-unquote ‘break that barrier?’”
“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.”
None of the NFL assistant coaches and personnel members were willing to put their names behind their statements and all remained anonymous.
However, NFL players on teams from all over the nation expressed their support for Sam on Twitter, contradicting the execs’ concerns.
I could care less about a man’s sexual preference! i care about winning games and being respectful in the locker room!
— DeAngelo Williams (@DeAngeloRB) February 10, 2014
Good for Michael Sam.. Hopefully this’ll inspire others to be comfortable and proud of who they are
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) February 10, 2014
Even the reigning Super Bowl MVP showed support.
There is no room for bigotry in American sports. It takes courage to change the culture.
— Malcolm Smith (@MalcSmitty) February 10, 2014
An openly-gay NFL player had been on it’s way for a while, and no matter when it happened there was always going to be fanfare. But Michael Sam will absolutely be on an NFL roster one way or another going into next season – he’s just too talented to not be — and it’ll be interesting to see how people handle it.
“I’m coming out because I want to own my truth. I’m comfortable with who I am and I didn’t want anyone to break a story without me telling it and I wanna tell it the way I wanna tell it, Sam said.
“I don’t think I should be defined as Michael Sam the gay athlete, the gay football player. I wanna be defined as Michael Sam, for being a great person, and having great character.”
I’m a spring intern at RVA Mag and GayRVA. I recently got my degree in journalism from Virginia Tech, where I also wrote for the Collegiate Times newspaper. I spent the first half of my life as an impatient New Yorker, but I grew up here in Richmond, buying skateboards from Dominion, seeing shows at Alley Katz, and watching VCU Rams basketball games. I like everything bagels, wasting my money on clothes I don’t need, moombahton music, and cycling. I probably fell down putting on my pants this morning.
Love has no Labels campaign. The concept aims to open peoples understanding that love comes in all forms – “regardless of race, gender, disability, age or religion.”February 16, 2017
- Openly gay football player Michael Sam signed to professional team in Canada, May 22, 2015
- Michael Sam signs with Dallas Cowboys, September 3, 2014
- John Stewart lays into ESPN for Michael Sam shower story, August 29, 2014
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