Bravo. University of Missouri's superstar defensive lineman Michael Sam has made history to become the first Division I college football player to come out as gay.
The 6-foot-2, 260-pound Mizzou senior is a top NFL draft pick. He is the 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, was named a first-team all-American and was voted Missouri's most valuable player. Sam is expected to be drafted in the early rounds of the NFL draft in May and is on track to become the first openly gay in the National Football League.
The 24-year-old Sam made the public statement to the New York Times.
"I just want to make sure I could tell my story the way I want to tell it," said Mr. Sam who also spoke with ESPN on Sunday. "I just want to own my truth." ...
Mr. Sam said he began to wonder if he was gay in his early teens, though he had a girlfriend in high school. It was after he arrived at Missouri in 2009 that he realized for certain that he was gay. Teammates increasingly suspected as much, and some knew that he dated a man on the university’s swim team, but it never prevented Mr. Sam from being one of the most popular players on the team.
The footballer said he decided to come out publicly now because he believed there were rumors.
But the N.F.L. presents the potential for unusual challenges. In the past year or so, the league has been embroiled in controversies ranging from antigay statements from players to reports that scouts asked at least one prospective player if he liked girls.
At a showcase game for college seniors last month, several scouts asked Mr. Sam’s agent, Joe Barkett, questions about whether Mr. Sam had a girlfriend or whether Mr. Barkett had seen him with women.
Missouri finished its season 12-2 and Sam helped lead the team to its Cotton Bowl victory. Sam is expected to train intensely between now and the NFL Combine in May. "I’m not naïve," he said. "I know this is a huge deal and I know how important this is. But my role as of right now is to train for the combine and play in the N.F.L."
Michael Sam would become the first openly gay male player in the rarefied "Big Four"—the NFL, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball or the National Hockey League. Free agent and twelve-year NBA veteran Jason Collins came out in April 2013. Collins had been playing with the Wizards. He has not been resigned.
John Amaechi, who was the first former NBA player to come out as gay, told me last spring that he was not surprised the first out, active male player would be from the NBA. "I expect that the next three or four" professional sports players to come out could also be Black players, Amaechi told me in "Jason Collins Has “Reframed the Conversation” Around Sports, Blacks and Homophobia" for EBONY.
"The media incorrectly assumed that ‘the first’ player would be White and probably from hockey or baseball," author and activist Darnell L. Moore told EBONY. Moore and former NFL player Wade Davis have co-founded You Belong, a sports leadership initiative for LGBT youth. "The majority of the NBA and the NFL’s players are Black, so, to me it came as no surprise."
Wade Davis, former Division I basketball player Will Sheridan and former American Basketball Association player DeMarco Majors discussed the landscape for professional Black gay athletes with me in the award-winning and critically-acclaimed 2012 anthology For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Not Enough. The book was edited by television commentator Keith Boykin.