Michael Sam has been officially drafted by the Rams, becoming the first and only gay player to be drafted by the NFL. Saturday, May 10, 2014 will go down as yet another landmark date as America increasingly quickens its pace down the road toward LGBT acceptance and equality. Jeff Fisher, the coach of the Rams, has said that the pick was about talent and the strength of the player. Sam came out earlier this year, telling coaches and teammates in February. He attended the University of Missouri and played football for his school’s team, the Missouri Tigers.
Fans have been intensely watching the three-day draft process and wondering how Michael Sam’s sexuality would affect his chances to be picked. Nate Silver, an openly gay statistician and writer, predicted that Sam only had a 50-50 chance to make the draft. His NFL “stock” dropped after he came out in February. He also reportedly performed poorly at a scouting combine held in Indianapolis that same month.
Michael Sam was officially picked up Saturday morning, however, and has become the first openly gay NFL player in history. The NFL has been the target of a media backlash to what many see as an intolerant and homophobic environment. Last year, Chris Culliver of the 49ers made homophobic remarks in an interview and then later apologized. College players also revealed that recruiters were asking invasive personal questions about their sexuality.
Prior to his pick, a poll by the Journal Sentinel found that only 9 of 21 scouts would be interested in selecting Michael Sam during the draft. Many feel that he is too small and slow to be an effective defensive lineman. In an interview with Good Morning America, Sam expressed ambivalence in regards to the team for which he would have liked to play. He said that he would have felt proud no matter where he ended up.
ESPN released Michael’s Sam’s emotional response to the draft pick. The network even aired an on-screen kiss between Sam and his boyfriend Sean Smith. In the video, Sam awaits the news with friends and family. When he is informed of the decision via cell phone, he and others in the room burst into applause and tears. He then hugs and kisses Sean Smith.
On infoplease, one can view the American LGBT-rights timeline and see the how quickly the movement is gaining momentum in recent years. In 1924, the first gay rights organization was founded in Chicago. Not until 1962, however, was gay sex decriminalized in the first state to do so, Illinois. Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004. 2013 became a landmark year with the historic United States v. Windsor case that struck down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act, and paved the way for federal recognition of same-sex marriage. This year appears to be running on momentum built-up from previous decades and has seen major social and legal strides in the LGBT civil rights movement. Michael Sam, now the first openly gay NFL player, is a testament to the speed and strength of the LGBT movement. Michael has said that he wishes to eventually be just an NFL player, without being “the gay” football player.
By James Ryder