In a ground-breaking announcement, University of Missouri defensive end and NFL draft propect Michael Sam said today that he is gay.
Sam is now set to become the first openly gay player in the NFL. Sam is an All-American selection who was voted Defensive Player of the Year in the Southeastern Conference. He is projected as an early-round draft selection.
“I just want to make sure I could tell my story the way I want to tell it,” Sam told the New York Times. “I just want to own my truth.”
It will be instructive to see how NFL teams, which aren't allowed to discriminate against employees for their sexual orientation, view Sam as a prospect. There are gay players already in the NFL, but they are closeted
Past NFL players who have come out after their careers were over include Esera Tuaolo and Kwame Harris. NBA player Jason Collins announced last year that he's gay. He hasn't played for a team since his announcement, though.
:We admire Michael Sam's honesty and courage," the NFL said in a statement. "Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014."
NFL linebacker Jonathan Vilma recently questioned how it would go over to have a gay teammate.
“I think he would not be accepted as much as we think he would be accepted,” Vilma said.
According to the Times, NFL scouts have asked Sam's agent, Joe Barkett, if Sam had a girlfriend or had been seen with a woman.
“I’m not naïve,” Sam said. “I know this is a huge deal and I know how important this is. But my role as of right now is to train for the combine and play in the NFL."
Sam told the Times that teammates, coaches and administrators have supported him.
“Some people actually just couldn’t believe I was actually gay,” Mr. Sam said. “But I never had a problem with my teammates. Some of my coaches were worried, but there was never an issue. Once I became official to my teammates, I knew who I was. 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. I guess they don’t want to ask a 6-3, 260-pound defensive lineman if he was gay or not."
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Aaron Wilson covers the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun.
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