NFL Hopeful Michael Sam Comes Out Ahead Of Draft

In interviews with ESPN and The New York Times, Sam called himself a proud gay man. If drafted, he could become the first openly gay NFL player.
Posted at 11:07 PM, Feb 09, 2014

Former Missouri Tigers defensive lineman Michael Sam announced that he's gay Sunday, and since he's expected to be drafted to the pros, that means he could become the first openly gay player in the NFL.

Sam broke the news to ESPN and The New York Times, describing the feeling of coming out to his teammates last August.

"Saying it, and how everyone's reaction was, was so, like, awesome and I just... These are my teammates, these are my brothers."

Sam said most of the team already knew, but it was good to just get it out there. As for Sunday's announcement, he said rumors had started to circulate about his sexuality, so he wanted to take control of the story now.

Bleacher Report took note of the timing, saying, "For a young player to do this ahead of the NFL draft is a bold move by Sam, but it's also a refreshing, transparent approach that suggests he is prepared to be honest and take control of his own situation."

Analysts expect Sam to be picked up midway through the draft, thanks to his size at 6'2", 255 lbs, and to a stellar 2013 season.

The Wire laid out his accomplishments, saying, "He was a first team all-American, defensive player of the year in the Southeastern conference, and his team's MVP."

While former pro athletes have come out after retiring, there still has never been an openly gay man in the NFL, NBA, MLB or NHL. So any team that drafts Sam knows they're getting a historic first. Is the NFL ready for it? ESPN analyst Jerome Bettis thinks so.

"I believe the majority of the players in the locker room are. You're always going to have one or two guys that feel strongly in a different capacity."

But Sports Illustrated spoke to anonymous NFL insiders who all said the same thing: "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."

Publicly, at least, the NFL supported Sam's decision, tweeting, "Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014."