NFL: Draft prospect Michael Sam of Missouri tells media outlets he is gay

2014-02-10T05:45:00Z NFL: Draft prospect Michael Sam of Missouri tells media outlets he is gayThe Associated Press The Associated Press
February 10, 2014 5:45 am  • 

Missouri All-American Michael Sam says he is gay, and the defensive end could become the first openly homosexual player in the NFL.

In interviews with ESPN, The New York Times and Outsports that were published Sunday, Sam said his teammates and coaches at Missouri have known since August.

"I am an openly, proud gay man," he said.

The 255-pound Sam participated in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., last month after leading the SEC in sacks (11.5) and tackles for loss (19), and he is projected to be a mid-round NFL draft pick.

"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," he said in the interviews.

There have been numerous NFL players who have come out after their playing days, including Kwame Harris and Dave Kopay.

Last year, NBA player Jason Collins announced he was gay after the season. Collins, a 35-year-old backup center, was a free agent and has not signed with a new team this season. MLS star and U.S. national team player Robbie Rogers also came out a year ago.

Division III Willamette kicker Conner Mertens, a redshirt freshman, said last month he was bisexual.

"We admire Michael Sam's honesty and courage," the NFL said in statement. "Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014."

Sam said many people at the Senior Bowl all-star game for NFL prospects seemed to know that he was gay.

"I didn't realize how many people actually knew, and I was afraid that someone would tell or leak something out about me," he told ESPN. "I want to own my truth. ... No one else should tell my story but me."

Before coming out to all his teammates and coaches, Sam said he told a few close friends and dated another Missouri athlete who was not a football player.

"Coaches just wanted to know a little about ourselves, our majors, where we're from, and something that no one knows about you," Sam said. "And I used that opportunity just to tell them that I was gay. And their reaction was like, 'Michael Sam finally told us.'"

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said in a statement Sunday night he was proud of Sam and how he represented the program.

"Michael is a great example of just how important it is to be respectful of others, he's taught a lot of people here first-hand that it doesn't matter what your background is, or your personal orientation, we're all on the same team and we all support each other," Pinkel said. "If Michael doesn't have the support of his teammates like he did this past year, I don't think there's any way he has the type of season he put together."

Missouri linebacker Donovan Bonner has been a teammate of Sam's for five years.

"We knew of his status for 5 years and not one team member, coach, or staff member said anything says a lot about our family atmosphere," Bonner tweeted.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(13) Comments

  1. Ego Vigilabo Vigilum
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    Ego Vigilabo Vigilum - February 11, 2014 10:45 am

    Not much upon which I disagree with you, but I do here. Not about Sam's courage or any of that, but about the "Jackie Robinson' tie-in, with which the Daily Beast's Ben James has already bestowed.

    From Ethics Alarms' Jack Marshall

    "Exactly. And the advance burden of being “Jackie Robinson” was nearly impossible for Jackie Robinson to bear. The reason (Brooklyn Dodgers' Executive Wesley Branch) Rickey, brilliantly, knew that the player to break the color barrier had to be a great one was that he knew that any player less than great could be credibly dismissed on other grounds. It is not until the mediocre but adequate NFL player can be gay without negative consequences that the league will be safe for gay players.

    "I wonder who the first average black baseball player was? It’s hard to tell, because several of the first black players who didn’t perform in stellar fashion (often due to the stress of being the target of racial abuse) got cut before they could show their talents. But a disproportionate number of the group were either already Negro League stars or came with the expectation that they would be stars."

    I think Sam is in a postion of proving everyone else wrong, like Robinson was. But it was a whole different ball game (pun intended) back then.

    Sam will have adoring Rainbow throngs greeting him at every stadium, and I'm sure he will have his detractors there for balance as well.

    Robinson had his adoring throngs, but in much more subdued manner because of the racial climate of the time, where hatred was far more mainstream and accepted.

    Sam will also have to endure all the second-guessing: if he doesn't succeed (get drafted, play, start, etc) is it because he came out or because he isn't good enough?

    Any unintended consequence (and there will be many from which to choose) or anything that isn’t in his favor will be because he’s gay.

    *Not offered enough money? It’s because he’s gay.

    *Not starting? It’s because he’s gay.

    *He doesn’t like where his locker is? It’s because he’s gay.

    Will the team/coach that takes him be lauded as a trailblazer ofrchided for buckling under to Political Correctness?

    Bottom line (IMHO) is Sam will face a lower set of obstacles than Robinson did.

    I wish him luck; he's going to need it because his story and hardships didn't end with him coming out, it begins.

  2. somecleverscreenname
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    somecleverscreenname - February 11, 2014 9:52 am
    Actually, I believe the words you're looking for is 100% uninformed....oh, and maybe , still a little...... bitter? Let it go man, it's been almost 6 years. Wow.
  3. retired
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    retired - February 10, 2014 11:31 am
    AND, what does this have to with the sport ?? Hey, I am gay, so I can run faster !! Another stupid comment, who cares !!!! Do your job,,, could care less who you like ! I like girls, does this make me less than whom-ever. Stupid.
  4. hoosierbadger
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    hoosierbadger - February 10, 2014 9:41 am
    Opens the door for Aaron Rodgers,and no I am not trying to be a $%$%^%$.
    I am 100% serious
  5. Beavheur
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    Beavheur - February 10, 2014 9:12 am
    Palmda is merely saying what many people still think. Progress has been made but many are ambivalent at best towards homosexuality. The point made that all males who have been in a public locker room have been around gay males is an extremely valid point. I find it very interesting that a kid who is to be drafted comes out before any NFL players do. I have to give Sam credit for being true to his own self, because I can almost guarantee you that he more than likely cost himself millions in terms of drafting position. In the long run, this is another step in the process where sexual preference becomes irrelevant in terms of how people are viewed in the world of sports. Sadly, someone has to fall on their sword for progress to be made.
  6. Galileo
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    Galileo - February 10, 2014 8:59 am
    i bet if you asked anyone, they'd feel the same way about you Palmda.
  7. Norwood44
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    Norwood44 - February 10, 2014 8:33 am
    palmda. If you have ever played sports or been to fitness club in Madison you have already showered with gay men. So there's that. And guess what? You didn't catch homosexuality. Don't worry. We won't tell anyone you showered with some gay guys.
  8. dakref
    Report Abuse
    dakref - February 10, 2014 7:41 am
    Still some neanderthals around I see.
  9. BadgerFan12345
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    BadgerFan12345 - February 10, 2014 6:56 am
    Palmda, I truly feel sorry for you.
  10. palmda
    Report Abuse
    palmda - February 10, 2014 6:31 am
    Courage? More like stupidity. He should keep his mouth shut and take care of his sexual needs later. Most of these athletics only play a few years. I as a male would not want a gay guy running around in the open locker room when I was necked. maybe they could form a Gay league, instead of a huddle they could all hug and kiss.
  11. RecessionSux
    Report Abuse
    RecessionSux - February 10, 2014 4:53 am
    The media goes from a gay story to a story about slavery and then throws in a Holocast piece. Then the cycle starts over. I'm seeing a pattern.
  12. Norwood44
    Report Abuse
    Norwood44 - February 09, 2014 9:34 pm
    This took great courage. He is to be admired. Somewhere Jackie Robinson is applauding.
  13. legalizeit
    Report Abuse
    legalizeit - February 09, 2014 8:45 pm
    I admire the mans courage.

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