With the news that the University of Missouri’s star defensive end, Michael Sam, has come out as gay, the NFL may be poised to accept their first openly gay professional football player. Sam is currently a senior at the university, and played recently in the Senior Bowl All-Star game for potential future NFL players, where he says many of the other players already seemed to know about his sexual orientation.
The athlete has received outstanding support from his coaches and his fellow players, who he claims seemed simply to be waiting for him to announce that he was gay when he was ready. Even the NFL has released a statement saying that they look forward to accepting Michael Sam into their ranks, should he prove to be a skilled and determined enough player.
Michael Sam may enter history as one of the first openly gay professional football players, joining the ranks of such athletes as Jason Collins, the NBA player who came out last year, and Team USA and MLS player Robbie Ross, who also came out last year.
Sam says that the reason for his coming out was that he wanted to be the person who told his story, as he felt that rumors may have been circulating. He was afraid that someone would find out and leak it to the press, which would leave him with a scandal to deal with rather than a story of support and courage.
In a tweet posted after Michael Sam’s story went public, his friend and teammate said that the team all knew about Sam’s sexuality and had known for the past five years, and the fact that no one leaked the story shows how trustworthy and close they are as a family.
The NFL Draft season, where players will be promoted from college level to professional status, starts on Thursday, May 8 this year and will carry on until the following Sunday, and Michael Sam has a lot of potential to be one of the early picks of the prospective players due to his impressive record during his college years.
The all-star player is 6’2″, weighs 260 pounds and has several impressive accomplishments to his name, including being a first-team all-American, being named MVP for the season by his teammates, and being awarded the title of Best Defensive Player of the Year last year at the Southeastern Conference.
While this seems like a quick victory on the horizon for LGBT rights supporters in terms of gay representation in places where there has historically never been any, the NFL hasn’t exactly been projecting a pro-LGBT image lately. Several scandals have emerged from the league, including players being subjected to homophobic slurs or rejected for supporting marriage equality. Some players have even made public statements spotlighting their stance against LGBT equality.
In fact, reports say that scouts had been asking his agent whether Michael Sam had a girlfriend or been seen with women. This is not the first time this has happened; there are reports that at least one more draft potential was asked by scouts whether he “liked girls.” Though this may simply be to see if the players are obligated to stay in their state because of romantic ties, many seem to posit a more insidious reasoning behind it.
If all goes as projected, though, come draft season, Michael Sam will go from potential NFL player to first openly gay professional football player in history, and that is a prospect that many see as a very good thing. The star defensive end has heard the vocal support of ESPN, the New York Times, as well as the NFL itself.
by Robin Syrenne