Michael Sam, an all-American defensive end from Missouri expected to be selected late in the NFL Draft, came out as gay to the public on Sunday, meaning he’ll likely be the first openly gay active player in the NFL when the 2014 season begins, unless the move inspires others to come out before next season begins.
Sam came out to teammates at Missouri during the 2013 season, according to The New York Times. An Sports Illustrated writer approached him a month ago about discussing his sexuality in that publication, but he declined at the time.
He assured the writer that it was okay that he has asked and added matter-of-factly, “It’s going to be a big deal no matter who I do it with.”
With the outing article approaching, Sam reportedly spent the weekend running hills with Jason Collins, the first openly gay NBA player. On Saturday night, he had dinner with Chris Kluwe, Billy Bean and Wade Davis before going out to a gay club.
And now NFL scouts are taking pains to tell reporters that the announcement means nothing for his draft prospects. This was after many scouts knew of his sexuality and didn’t out him. It would be nice to expect the same understanding out of NFL front office executives, but no, a bunch of them are chastising him anonymously in a SI article.
An openly gay player has been close to being a reality for the last few years in the NFL. Now the NFL might have to face one of the tougher situations with its first openly gay player being an incoming rookie. If Sam isn’t drafted, teams and the league itself will appear to be intolerant. Even if Sam is drafted where he was expected to go, the hazing culture of NFL locker rooms will likely be given extremely intense scrutiny. Nevertheless, Michael Sam knew of all those challenges and still had the courage to make this announcement.