On Sunday February 9, the NFL landscape changed forever. Why? All you have to do is look at Michael Sam. Most fans won’t have heard of this young man unless you are a Missouri Tigers supporter, but you will know him soon enough.
Sam is preparing for the upcoming NFL Draft, and as the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year, there are high expectations. Experts project Sam to be drafted in the mid-rounds if not earlier, but that isn’t what is making news. The news is that he has come out as an openly gay man.
Unfortunately, if you are anywhere near social media, you will see the ignorance that still resides within our society, but that is not going to shroud the importance of what Sam is doing. Plain and simple, Sam is breaking a mold that no other player has dare touched in the game’s history. There have been players who have come out with their sexual orientation after their playing days have expired, but none during.
The fact that Sam is making this information public before the draft is even more impressive. NFL teams had the opportunity to interview Sam at the Senior Bowl, where all were notified of this news. Sam is not a player that is a borderline draft pick that is hoping for a team to take a chance on him. At inside linebacker, Sam posted tremendous numbers this past season, leading the SEC with 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles for a loss.
How the league and teams responds to this news will speak volumes about the tolerance that coaches, GMs and organizations have of an openly gay player being tagged to their franchise.
Regardless of Sam’s success in the NFL, he is altering the landscape of the game forever. He has opened a door that can never be shut again. Just as Jackie Robinson did against the color barrier in 1947 for MLB, Sam is doing for open sexuality in the NFL in 2014. He is not the first NFL player that is gay, but he is the first to have the guts to openly state his sexual orientation before and during his career.
When wondering why a player would possibly put himself through the scrutiny, hatred and downright ignorance that can be associated with this decision, Sam’s words put it best:
“I’m not afraid to tell the world who I am. I’m Michael Sam: I’m a college graduate. I’m African-American and I’m gay. I’m comfortable in my skin.”