NFL prospect Michael Sam has signed his first endorsement deal before being drafted. According to a report by ESPN on Thursday, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year out of Missouri has partnered with Visa. The endorsement adds to a very busy and potentially historical week for Sam, who could become the first active openly gay NFL player.
As the question of whether the NFL is ready for an openly gay player continues be an issue, Visa’s interest and partnership with Sam was based more on his character and the inspirational message he sent by having the courage to come out and be himself both as an athlete and as an individual.
Kevin Burke, Visa’s chief marketing officer, told ESPN.com, “We felt that Michael’s story was a perfect fit for our ‘everywhere’ campaign, which is meant to inspire people to reach their own personal goals and aspirations. We wish Michael the beast on and off the field as he embarks on the next chapter of his life.”
Sam and his agent have been very selective as to whom the NFL prospect signs with. Visa seemed like the right fit for Sam, who has received dozens of endorsement deal offers despite potentially going undrafted. The commercial for Visa featuring Michael Sam debuted on Thursday. In the 43-second spot, Sam provides a voice over to judge him for “what I do on the field” and “Not for what I do off of it.”
Sam is certainly hoping teams take a shot at him in the draft based on what he can do on the field. He is expected to go in the later rounds of the draft, if he is selected at all. Either way, Michael Sam has already been an influential person in the LGBT community and on a national level. On Wednesday it was announced that Sam has been selected the winner of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, an award given to individuals who inspire and transcend sports.
Sam will receive the award at The 2014 ESPYs on July 16. It is an honor he is thrilled to receive, but explains how he hopes what he did by coming out becomes less about courage and more about acceptance. He says, “You know I don’t think there is anything courageous I did. I look forward to when we can live life in a world when gays don’t have to come out in public.” But someone has to open that door and keep it open. Michael Sam is one of those people.