First Openly Gay Active NFL Player Comes Out
Even though there are well over 1,500 active NFL players, there is not one openly gay active player in the entire league. In fact, there isn’t one in the NBA, MLB, or NHL either. That will all change in May when Missouri’s Michael Sam is drafted by one of league’s 32 teams.
Sam, an All-American defensive lineman and the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, announced this week that he is an “openly, proud gay man.” Sam is one of the top defensive prospects in the NFL Draft and is expected to be selected by the third round.
According to teammates and coaches, Sam had already told those around him about his sexual orientation. Comfortable with who he is, Sam revealed that he was gay to teammates during a pre-season team building exercise last year where everyone had to say something about themselves. “I looked in their eyes, and they just started shaking their heads — like, finally, he came out,” Sam told the New York Times of the experience.
“Once I became official to my teammates, I knew who I was,” Sam said. “I knew that I was gay. And I knew that I was Michael Sam, who’s a Mizzou football player who happens to be gay. I was so proud of myself and I just didn’t care who knew. If someone on the street would have asked me, ‘Hey, Mike, I heard you were gay; is that true?’ I would have said yes.”
Now, all Sam has to do is be accepted by a league that is no stranger to homophobia. “I understand how big this is,” Sam says “It’s a big deal. No one has done this before. And it’s kind of a nervous process, but I know what I want to be … I want to be a football player in the NFL.” Sam went on to say “I’m not afraid to tell the world who I am. I’m Michael Sam: I’m a college graduate. I’m African American, and I’m gay. I’m comfortable in my skin.”
Following his announcement, the NFL released a statement saying “We admire Michael Sam’s honesty and courage. Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the N.F.L. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014.”
Not all reactions were positive, however. Ten-year NFL veteran Jonathan Vilma, after telling the NFL Network that he would not want a gay teammate, warned “I think he would not be accepted as much as we think he would be accepted.”
(Image courtesy of Marcus Qwertyus)