Today Missouri Defensive End Michael Sam revealed in several articles that he was gay, and could become the NFL's first openly gay player. Sam is entering the Draft this year and is projected as a 3rd-5th round prospect. He was the SEC's Defensive Co-MVP this season.
Sam, 24, was out to his Missouri team last season and made his decision to go public about his sexual orientation less than two weeks before the NFL Draft Combine in Indianapolis, an event where draft prospects show off their skills and are tested by the 32 NFL teams. Sam's story was published simultaneously tonight in interviews with ESPN and the New York Times, and by Outsports(SBNation site).
"Once I became official to my teammates, I knew who I was," Sam told John Branch of the New York Times. "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 want to thank everybody for their support and encouragement,especially @espn, @nytimes and @nfl. I am proud to tell my story to the world!
— Michael Sam (@MikeSamFootball) February 10, 2014
The questions about how this will affect his draft stock have already begun in an article by Sports Illustrated.
The news that former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam is gay holds significant social and cultural ramifications. But from a purely football perspective, his decision to come out prior to May's NFL draft will make his path to the league daunting, eight NFL executives and coaches told SI.com.
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.
NFL players have already started commenting on the story, and the NFL has released a short statement.
"We admire Michael Sam's honesty and courage. 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."