Michael Sam – First Openly Gay NFL Draft Prospect in History
This morning, all-american, all-SEC, college defensive-player of the year, Michael Sam, formerly of the University of Missouri Tigers, announced that his is gay, making him the first ever openly-gay NFL draft prospect. Michael Sam announced his homosexuality this morning in a press-release and was interviewed by ESPN, The New York Times, and Sports Illustrated. Sam racked up 11.5 sacks on the season, and has been projected to be drafted all over the place, from the third round to the seventh round, but it goes without saying that he will probably be drafted as he is in the top-ten overall defensive draft picks of the year.
There are layers to the announcement of his homosexuality. The first is that it happened, and there was no more than the expected amount of bigoted reactions to his announcement. The second is how it happened. This was a very, very coordinated media announcement, evidenced by the simultaneous announcement to two of the largest sports news media circulators in the world (ESPN and SI), as well as The New York Times, almost on the scale of Lebron James’s “The Announcement” back in 2010.
The timing is interesting. Sam made his announcement three weeks before the start of the NFL Combine, and three months before the NFL Draft, giving the story ample time to develop prior to draft-day, as well as allow teams the opportunity to come to grips with the possibility of making history and bringing the NFL’s first openly gay athlete into the fold – additionally giving the “controversy” the chance to die down. Mainly, the announcement serves the purpose of coming out before Sam is added to any team instead of it coming out after the draft and it seeming like he had something to hide before being drafted.
The initial reaction from players has been resoundingly supportive. It’s no secret, that there have been gay athletes in the NFL, just none who have come out, at least according to Deion Sanders, who has been around the league for long enough to be somewhat trusted with information like that:
Michael Sam isn’t the 1st gay player in the NFL although he is the 1st 2 come out.#realtalk Let’s show him love like a family member. Truth
— DeionSanders (@DeionSanders) February 10, 2014
However, the response from NFL executives and GM’s alike has been disappointingly antiquated. Some have been quoted as to saying that Michael Sam’s stock will be hurt by this, or even his announcement could cause him not to be drafted at all, which is troublesome considering the NFL’s influence and ability to mobilize social change. However, the good news is that for Michael Sam, this is a win-win situation. If he gets drafted, then he’ll make history has the first ever openly gay athlete in the NFL, perhaps even spurring others in the league to come out, as well as open the door for many other entrants into the league to not fear coming out to their teammates, and change the perception of the presence of homosexuality within a team’s dynamic and within the locker room itself. If he doesn’t get drafted, then every single team in the NFL will have to explain why not, especially considering talent-wise, there’s nothing that should stop him from being drafted.