Is the NFL ready for an open gay football player? That question will finally be answered in May. As ESPN reports on Feb. 9, Michael Sam, an All-American defensive lineman from the Missouri Tigers has come out as gay.
Sam made the announcement Sunday in an interview with ESPN’s “Outside the Lines”. According to Sam, his teammates and coaches at Missouri have known he was gay since he came out to them in August before the college football season began.
Through the season, he has played at the top of his game, which earned him the Associated Press’ SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors. As he is eligible for the NFL draft in May, he would become the first active gay player in the history of the NFL if drafted. On skill set alone, there shouldn’t be any reason why Michael Sam isn’t drafted. He realizes how big a deal his coming out, but wants to remain focused on football.
“I understand how big this is. 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.”
Michael Sam said his decision to come out know stemmed from his experience at the Senior Bowl, where may of the players there already seemed to know that he is gay.
“I didn’t realize how many people actually knew, and I was afraid that someone would tell or leak something out about me. I want to own my truth. …No one else should tell my story but me.”
Although he was scared, he confided in coaches and also a few friends. He admitted that he dated fellow athletes who were not football players and just felt it was time to be free. Being gay is not who he is, but a part of his adversity growing up and what he has had to overcome.
“I knew from a young age that I was attracted to guys. I didn’t know if it was a phase…I didn’t want to say, ‘Hey, I might be gay. I might be bi.’ I just didn’t know…I wanted to find who I was and make sure I knew what was comfortable. So I didn’t tell anyone growing up.”
Michael Sam’s story is like many who have grown up feeling a need to hide who they were. His story is a common story except for the fact that he is on the brink of becoming a professional athlete in a sport where he will be the first. But he does have other gay athletes to lean on for support including former NFL player Dave Kopay who came out three years after his playing career ended, NBA player Jason Collins and MLS player Robbie Rogers.
As far as any fear of him being in an NFL locker room, he just feels it’s a negative stereotype that he will prove to be wrong.
“I mean, people will talk about the stereotype of gays being in the locker room…to me, I think that it’s a little stereotyped that gay people are predators. It’s jus very offensive.”
As of Sunday (Feb.9) Michael Sam’s life has changed forever. But what remains is how many other lives he will change in the process and if him coming out will prompt NFL players who are rumored to be gay to finally come out.
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