Michael Sam, and All American defensive lineman for the University of Missouri, reveled publicly on Sunday, he was gay. His coming out created the possibility of him becoming the first openly gay athlete in the NFL if he is drafted.
“I came to tell the world I’m an openly proud gay man,” he said in an interview with ESPN.
Michael told his teammates in August and received no repercussions. He was also surprised to learn that many people in the media already knew he was gay.
“I understand how big this is,” Sam said in the ESPN interview. “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.”
“I just want to make sure I could tell my story the way I want to tell it. I just want to own my truth.” Sam said during his orientation on Sunday with The New York Times.
At 6’2″ 260lbs , Sam has been named the top defensive player in the Southeastern Conference, considered the nation’s best league. Teammates named him the team’s most valuable player.
Sam’s agent doesn’t feel him coming out will hurt his chances in the draft, and actually feels it will help him out, since teams will now view him as a player who is upfront and honest. Joe Barkett told CNN, “Mike was forward, and he wants the team who drafts him to accept him for who he is.”
However, the NFL has made headlines on the issue of sexual orientation in the past. Last year, a University of Colorado player said an NFL team asked him if he liked girls and had a girlfriend.
The NFL was quick to release a statement, “Any team or employee that inquires about impermissible subjects or makes an employment decision based on such factors is subject to league discipline.”
There have been many athletes to open up about their sexuality, NBA’s Jason Collins, the WNBA’s Brittney Griner, WWE’s Darren Young, UFC’s Liz Carmouche, MMA’s Fallon Fox and Major League Soccer’s Robbie Rogers.
Sam’s head football coach at Missouri, Gary Pinkel, said: “We’re really happy for Michael that he’s made the decision to announce this, and we’re proud of him and how he represents Mizzou. Michael is a great example of just how important it is to be respectful of others, he’s taught a lot of people here first-hand that it doesn’t matter what your background is, or your personal orientation, we’re all on the same team and we all support each other.”
It would seem the world is ready for an openly gay football star, but time will only tell.