Mizzou's Michael Sam Comes Out; May Become First Openly Gay Player in NFL

Feb 10, 2014 at 6:00 am
Michael Sam. - via mutigers.com
Michael Sam.

Michael Sam, a defensive lineman formerly at the University of Missouri, came out yesterday evening in two simultaneously released interviews with the New York Times and ESPN.

"I am an openly, proud gay man," he told interviewers at the sports network.

After an extremely successful final season with Mizzou, Sam is entering the 2014 NFL draft this spring. If he's drafted, he'll become the first openly gay player in the league.

See also: Mizzou Athletic Department Says "You Can Play" to LGBT Students (VIDEO)

Sam told the New York Times that he came out to his teammates in August, though some already knew about his orientation and his dating life.

"They rallied and supported me," Sam told the paper.

Apparently the news didn't phase them one bit -- they voted him "Most Valuable Player" at a team banquet in December. Sam was also apparently moved by the university's "You Can Play" campaign, which sought tolerance within the university sports community for LGBT players.

We reached out to Sam ourselves, but his spokesman told Daily RFT Sam is not doing any further interviews at this time. Sam did, however, have something to say via Twitter last night:

While many -- including First Lady Michelle Obama and Senator Claire McCaskill -- are cheering Sam's decision to go public, there's plenty of trouble on the horizon. A group of NFL executives and coaches spoke under condition of anonymity to Sports Illustrated and gave this assessment:

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.

No huge surprises there, however, the 2014 draft just got incredibly important for the future of the NFL and LGBT rights. How will the teams, coaches, owners respond?

Mizzou Nation -- along with the whole nation -- will be watching.

P.S. For good measure, here's Sam's dog dressed up like he's people. Tiger people:

Follow Jessica Lussenhop on Twitter at @Lussenpop. E-mail the author at [email protected].