Missouri defensive tackle Michael Sam publicly announced that he’s gay Sunday night in interviews with ESPN and the New York Times.
He will likely become the first openly gay player in NFL history after April’s NFL Draft, where he’s expected to be taken in the first few rounds.
Sam was the SEC defensive player of the year in 2013.
He came out to his teammates in the summer of 2013, and they supported him, according to the New York Times report.
Here’s what he said about the effect of coming out to his team:
“Once I became official to my teammates, I knew who I was. I knew that I was gay. And I knew that I was Michael Sam, who’s a Mizzou football player who happens to be gay. I was so proud of myself and I just didn’t care who knew. If someone on the street would have asked me, ‘Hey, Mike, I heard you were gay; is that true?’ I would have said yes.”
“I just want to own my truth,” he told the NYT.
It’s a historic moment for the league, and for American professional sports in general. Barring something unforeseen, there will be an openly gay NFL player in 2014.
From the league:
NFL: “We admire Michael Sam’s honesty & courage. Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in NFL”
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 10, 2014
The announcement comes a few months after a report that several gay NFL players got “cold feet” and backed out of a plan to come out publicly.
Sam was one of the central leaders of the 2013 Missouri team that went 12-2 and earned a place in the SEC Championship Game.
The fact that he come out to his team before the season, no one cared, and they went on to have one of the best seasons in school history should answer any questions about the effect of having a gay player in the locker room.
“I don’t think football is ready for it just yet. In the coming decade or two, it’s going to be acceptable, but at this point in time it’s still a man’s man game. To call somebody a [gay slur] is still so commonplace. It’d chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room.”
A shocking reminder of just how brave of a decision this was for Sam.
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