A Missouri college football player made headlines when he announced he was gay. Michael Sam is an NFL prospect and could be drafted. If he is, he'll make history as the first openly gay player in the NFL.
For the number of gay men playing in the NFL, no current player has ever openly admitted it. Michael Sam's decision to come out before the draft is a gamble that could make history. It could also be on of the last times something like this makes widespread headlines.
"I am an openly proud gay man," Sam said in a recent interview. That announcement drew national headlines, a social media storm, even a comment from the White House, "I have nothing specifically from the President at this time, except to say that he shares the sentiments expressed by the First Lady and the Vice President, and so many others marveling at his courage and congratulating him on the decision he made, the support he has from his team and wishing him well in the future including in professional football," says Press Secretary Jay Carney.
While the scene has played out before with well known actors and politicians, football has always been different. It's the roughest of professional sports and has a reputation of having a tough locker room, but that atmosphere could changing. Former players are starting to come out and current coaches, like Packers Coach Mike McCarthy says teams judge a player for how they can play. "At the end of the day it comes down to good football players," says McCarthy, "any player that can come here and be a good teammate, follow the rules of our program which is one, be respectful and produce on the football field we have room for that guy."
"I think it was courageous," says Jackson Jantzen, Executive Directors of the 7 Rivers LGBT Resource Center. Jantzen calls Sam's announcement encouraging. "Every time that somebody is willing to come out and share information about themselves," says Jantzen, "it humanizes is a little more and it also creates space for other people feel comfortable doing so themselves."
But Jantzen says what will be even more encouraging will be the day when this type of announcement doesn't make headlines.
"Five years from now I don't think you and I would be talking," laughs Jantzen, "I think it will be, it will be just another blip on the radar and everybody will be saying, ok, another sports person has come out." Until that day we'll have to wait and see where Sam is drafted and if his announcement hurts his career.
Sam seems to have all the talent to play in the NFL, he was a conference defensive player of the year and team MVP. Some draft analysts have him going as high as the third round.
There are currently no openly gay players in any of the four major U.S. sports.
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