Although Michael Sam says that NFL teams have not questioned him about his sexuality and how it will affect his abilities on the field, the media sure asked. Sam very graciously replied too, acting as the perfect spokesperson for gay players in professional sports. Unfortunately, this is not what Sam wants.
Sam was clear in saying that he does not want to be the gay poster child for the NFL. He wants to be recognized for his abilities on the field. When asked if he is bothered by all the questions surrounding his Feb. 9 announcement, he replied, "Oh, heck yeah, I wish you guys were just saying, 'Hey, Michael Sam, how's football going? How's training going?' I would love if you'd ask me that question."
Sam went on to say that he understands the curiosity in regards to how successful he will be as a professional football player. Once drafted, he will be the only openly gay NFL player in history and whether he likes it or not, he will be a role model and spokesperson.
Michael Sam was relatively unknown prior to his announcement. Now, he is surrounded by a media circus and football fans know his name. The Missouri defensive end is now making a huge impact on football both at the college and professional levels. As much as Sam contends that he does not want to be known as the "gay football player," it is exactly why he is known.
Michael Sam's experience will be a great starting point for acceptance in the NFL and other sports. Following the coming out of Jason Collins last year and the bullying story of Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin, the atmosphere and culture in the NFL is changing tremendously. Professional football players were previously treated more like fraternity brothers than employees and quickly those in charge are learning that times are changing.