Michael Sam, the University of Missouri's defensive end recently came out as gay to The New York Times. With the 2014 NFL draft slated for May 8-10, could Sam be the first gay, active NFL player?
Only time will tell, but Sam's recent revelation is a major step forward for the NFL, stigmatized as being a difficult environment for coming out. While Sam should be praised for his courage, he also understands the impact of his decision.
"I understand how big this is," Sam told ESPN, as stated on www.nfl.com. "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."
Gay Sports Stars
Fortunately, the ice has been chipped away a bit for Sam. Former NFL player Wade Davis, who served on the practice squads for reigning Super Bowl Champions the Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins, and Tennessee Titans came out as gay in 2012, after his football career had ended.
Davis did not feel comfortable coming out during his NFL stint. However, he is supportive of Sam's recent public announcement and knows that Sam's statement has the potential to change society.
Said Davis to The Missourian, "There are a lot of people who watch the game who base their ideas of masculinity and manhood on the sport of football because we see these players as gladiators. The fact that you can turn on your TV and watch an openly gay male play will really help to shape peoples ideas about what it means to be a man."
Soccer player Robbie Rogers and NBA player Jason Collins have also helped to break down the LGBT barrier. Both Rogers and Collins came out as gay in 2013, Collins becoming the first active professional sports player (in football, baseball, soccer, hockey) to come out.
In a world where potential damage to children has been cited as reasons for anti-gay legislation, including Russia's current legislation, the impact of major sports stars coming out is even more important. The 2014 Sochi Olympic games have been somewhat overshadowed by the fear of gay athletes' safety.
In 2013 Russian leader Vladimir Putin signed an anti-gay bill banning the "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors." The effects of this law have not fared well for Russian LGBT individuals, who have experience more violence since the law's establishment. While Putin has ensured gay athletes' safety during the Winter Games, until the final closing ceremonies in a couple weeks, nothing is certain.
Will Michael Sam's coming out encourage more positive gay legislation?
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