All-American defensive end for the Missouri Tigers, Michael Sam, revealed that he is gay and now will likely make NFL history as the inaugural openly gay player.
Sam played exceptional football last year and was rewarded with a 12-2 season with the Tigers, winning the Cotton Bowl, being named a first-team all-American and Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year. He was also voted most valuable player by his teammates.
Now, he is predicted to be an early to mid-round draft choice in the NFL and looks forward to possibly playing professional football as the first and only openly gay player.
This unprecedented move by Sam could change the course of his NFL career, but he has received nothing but support from his fellow Tigers. He revealed his sexual orientation to his teammates in August and they have since respected his privacy. Today, he revealed to ESPN, The New York Times and the world that he is comfortable with his identity as a gay man and that being gay does not define him. He is more than his sexual orientation as a football player, an African-American and a college graduate.
“I want to be defined Michael Sam for being a great person and hav[ing] great character,” said Sam in an interview with The New York Times.
It will surely be a test of Sam’s character as he enters into the NFL, an organization that has had recent controversies concerning homophobia. Sam revealing he is gay will certainly make NFL history in more ways than one.
Last year, NBA player of 12 years, Jason Collins, came out after the season was over. Collins was a reserve that did not get much playing time and after the announcement another team has not signed him. Currently, there are no openly gay athletes in the NFL, NBA, NHL or MLB. Sam is heading into uncharted territory and will likely be the figurehead for gay athletes in the major professional sports leagues.
There will be many challenges for Sam, including comments already made by an NFL player personnel assistant who said that the NFL is not yet ready for a gay player and that it would “chemically imbalance” the locker room.
Also, it has been reported by NFL executives that Sam’s draft stock will plummet regardless of his accomplishments as a football player, like leading the SEC with 11.5 tackles and 19 tackles for loss.
Sam made the decision to come out in part due to the questions geared towards his agent about if Sam was associating with women romantically. They will no longer have to ask.
Sam is proud of his homosexual status and is supported by his family, teammates at Missouri and the LGBT community. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said that any player can succeed in the league with drive and ability and they look forward to having Sam in the league.
Michael Sam will undoubtedly have hurdles to overcome after his revealing that he is gay, but he will likely make NFL history in more ways than one. Sam knows that this is a risk and that it won’t be easy, but he also knows that “[he] probably may be the first, but [he] won’t be the last.”
By Rebecca Hofland