Former Missouri football star Michael Sam announced Sunday he was gay, a landmark step for a potential NFL draft pick, who could be the league’s first openly gay player.
Sam’s teammates knew he was gay, as did Mizzou administrators. And so did The Kansas City Star, according to columnist Vahe Gregorian.
The player came out publicly to The New York Times and ESPN, and, Gregorian writes, “his right to privacy was honored by multiple media outlets, including The Star, as a simple matter of his choice to publicly discuss it or not.”
As Outsports notes in chronicling the behind-the-scenes story of how this developed, Sam’s sexual preference was an open secret among media.
Sam, an All-American and SEC defensive player of the year, told The Times he’s proud of himself, and is comfortable in the hyper-macho world of football.
“Once I became official to my teammates, I knew who I was,” he said. “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.”
Should Sam make it with an NFL team, he’d be the first openly gay player in any of America’s major professional sports.
Sports Illustrated’s first question was how Sam’s announcement will affect his draft stock. The answer? Anonymously quoted executives expect it to hurt him.
“I don’t think football is ready for [an openly gay player] just yet,” said an NFL player personnel assistant. “In the coming decade or two, it’s going to be acceptable, but at this point in time it’s still a man’s-man game. To call somebody a [gay slur] is still so commonplace. It’d chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room.”
Branch Rickey probably heard similar things when he signed Jackie Robinson.