The NFL could soon have its first openly gay player. Defensive Lineman Michael Sam, a 6-foot-2, 260-pound senior at Missouri, came out last August to his coaches and teammates last summer.
Sam decided to tell the media three months before the NFL draft because;
Last season, the University of Missouri finished 12-2, and won the Cotton Bowl. Sam was named a first-team all-American. He was also the defensive player of the year in the Southeastern Conference. His teammates voted him Missouri’s most valuable player.
The locker room isn’t where Sam has to be concerned with. Through the years players and coaches have known that there were certain teammates that are, “different.” But the respect is for what the player brings to the game. The fans reactions, and the media coverage, are the things potential teams will be considering in the draft.
At a showcase game for college seniors last month, several scouts asked Mr. Sam’s agent, Joe Barkett, questions about whether Mr. Sam had a girlfriend or whether Mr. Barkett had seen him with women.
Teams hire investigators and make it point to find out the things going on in the dark corners. His bravery should be applauded. At some point this won’t matter, but the steps to that are acknowledging that these players exist and are thriving.
I am a openly, proud gay man. I want to be a football player in the NFL.
— Michael Sam (@MichaelSam52) February 10, 2014
S.I. spoke with coaches and executives following the announcement. The results were that they felt the announcement would drop Sam’s stock, and that’s just the beginning.
In blunt terms, they project a significant drop in Sam’s draft stock, a publicity circus and an NFL locker room culture not prepared to deal with an openly gay player. Sam, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, was projected as a mid- to late-round draft pick prior to his announcement.
While none of the executives overtly condemned Sam’s decision, their opinions illuminated an NFL culture in which an openly gay player — from the draft room to the locker room — faces long odds and a lonely path.