Defensive end Michael Sam made national headlines this week for coming out as a gay football player. Sam is a senior at the University of Missouri and is projected to be picked up between the third and fifth rounds of the NFL draft.
He will be the first active player in NFL history to come out as gay. One of the more interesting facts stemming from his announcement is the respect Sam received from his coaches and teammates, who have know of his sexual preference since August 2013.
The bond inside of the locker room will always be bigger than most people realize. Those guys went to battle with Sam every week on the field knowing he was gay and didn’t make it an issue.
The team kept it a secret the entire year. The strength of that locker room is something to admire. The most amazing thing for me was that Sam being gay didn’t affect anyone at all and that’s the way it should be. Sam has become a solid player on the field for the Tigers and is one of best in the SEC.
Sam’s sexuality doesn’t make him any less of a person or any less of a football player. The fact that his teammates and coaches supported him made him stronger. As a fan and journalist, I commend them for the job they did with the handling his public announcement. The team bonded together without scrutiny and focused on how he performed on the field.
I also believe this event opened up another can of worms. I believe that being openly gay in sports is going to be a generational thing. Much like Jackie Robinson’s participation in baseball was big for African American rights, Sam could end up being a figure for gay rights in the NFL. I applaud how Missouri handled the situation once again, but we are talking about 18-23 year old kids.
We aren’t talking about a generation that grew up with homosexuality being a completely accepted thing. There are still people that believe that gays don’t deserve the same rights that others do. Some still focus on the sexual preference instead of looking at the person for what they are entirely.
Sam was gay when he got 11 sacks this season for Missouri, it made him no less a person and certainly no less of a football player.
The troubling part is what is going to be happening in the next six months.
The NFL draft is coming up in April and Sam was going to be part of it. There are rumors he has hurt his draft stock with his announcement.
Unfortunately, the scrutiny will be there for Sam as he enters the league. The younger generation has yet to take over and when they do we will see big change. The locker room that takes on Sam will need to accept him for his talent and his friendship. His sexual orientation should be the farthest things from their mind.
I’d like to see the Pittsburgh Steelers pick up Sam in the draft. He could help them out on the edge and has the size and ability to play in their 3-4 defense.
Michael Sam is a solid football player and that is what people need to be focusing on.