Michael Sam is black, and he is making a bit of history here in Black History Month.
In an article published in The New York Times, Missouri’s defensive end, Michael Sam, reveals that he’s gay. According to Sam, it was important to “own his truth,” by coming out and validating what he says many have already known. That would be, that is a gay college football player. Sam, the first-team All-American defensive end, hopes to be one of the top picks in this years upcoming NFL draft.
Should he be drafted — which I think he will, in spite of what some believe given his announcement — Sam will be the NFL’s first openly gay football player. As he says in the following interview, he knows he will not be the first gay NFL player, but hopefully, he will not be the last.
Watch the video below:
As the pace of the gay rights movement has accelerated in recent years, the sports industry has changed relatively little for men, with no publicly gay athletes in the N.F.L., the N.B.A., the N.H.L. or Major League Baseball. Against this backdrop, Mr. Sam could become a symbol for the country’s gay rights movement or a flash point in a football culture war — or both.
Mr. Sam, 24, is projected to be chosen in the early rounds of the N.F.L. draft in May, ordinarily an invitation to a prosperous pro career. He said he decided to come out publicly now because he sensed that rumors were circulating.
“I just want to make sure I could tell my story the way I want to tell it,” said Mr. Sam, who also spoke with ESPN on Sunday. “I just want to own my truth.”
But the N.F.L. presents the potential for unusual challenges. In the past year or so, it has been embroiled in controversies ranging from antigay statements from players to reports that scouts asked at least one prospective player if he liked girls. Recently, Chris Kluwe, a punter, said that he was subject to homophobic language from coaches and pushed out of a job with the Minnesota Vikings because he vocally supported same-sex marriage laws. And last week, Jonathan Vilma, a New Orleans Saints linebacker, said in an interview with NFL Network that he did not want a gay teammate.
As this story picks up traction this week to eventually become the sports story of the week. I imagine the line, “So what’s the big deal?” that Sam is gay will be tossed around quite a bit. Not that it’s a bad thing, however, we must all understand that coming out of the closet is and will always revolutionary. No matter how passe such an event may become — and hopefully it does become passe — given that we live in a super hyper-masculine society riddled with homophobia. For someone like Sam to do so in the world of sports, deserves extra props and a whole lot of respect from football fans and players.
In an interview with Chris Connerlly of ESPN, Sam said, “”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.” Here’s to Michael Sam revolutionizing the NFL and pro sports.