In early February, the National Football League was shaken when Michael Sam, an all-star college athlete, openly announced that he was gay. Sam, who is a lineman for the University of Missouri Tigers, is projected to be an NFL draft pick.
With his announcement, Sam’s situation is unique since he would be the first openly gay player in the history of the NFL. Many experts believe that the timing of his announcement before the NFL draft could jeopardize his standing. They are speculating that Sam’s stock has dramatically fallen as a result of his announcement.
However, in August, Sam disclosed to his Missouri teammates that he was gay. This revelation did not prove to be a distraction to the team since Missouri had an 11-2 season and defeated Oklahoma State in the AT&T Cotton Bowl, according to ESPN.com.
Michael Sam was not ostracized by his college teammates, but instead, he was accepted and supported. Other figures in the world of sports have also embraced Sam, including Brendon Ayanbadejo, a former Ravens linebacker and special-teams ace.
Ayanbadejo has been a strong advocate for gay rights. According to The Baltimore Sun, he voiced his support for Sam when he said, “I’m honored to be able to champion the cause and Michael because he’s a champion.”
Ayanbadejo also compared Sam to some historical figures that were prominent in the civil rights crusade. He believes that “historically, Michael is in line with what Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King, and Rosa Parks have done.”
According to Ayanbadejo, “several NFL teams, including the Ravens, have spoken positively about accepting Sam and said they will evaluate him fairly for his talent and character and not downgrade him because of his sexual preference.”
Summing up his feelings about Sam, Ayanbadejo said “I think he’s a remarkable young man. He’s a physical specimen. He’s a heck of a football player. He plays with a high motor, high energy. I’m looking forward to him making an impact. I think teams will be impressed with Michael Sam.”
Kevin Dorsey, a college football athlete at the University of Maryland, explained that he “thought it took a lot of courage.” Dorsey also added, “it was good for [Sam] to get any of the speculation around him out of the way so that he could just focus on football and the NFL scouts evaluating him.”
When Dorsey was asked how he would feel about having a gay person on his football team, he responded that “it wouldn’t make a difference at all. Just as long as they are doing their job and as long as they are not bringing extra attention to themselves.”
A CCBC student athlete, Megan Alley, mentioned in an interview that she thinks, “it was a great idea for [Sam] to announce.” Alley also stated that “everyone should be comfortable with himself or herself.”
“I think there are many other gay athletes that have yet to announce it, and I think that Michael Sam created a stepping-stone for all to announce their sexuality,” Alley remarked.
Sam’s announcement is still news. However, in the future, as Ayanbadejo said, we can only hope that any announcement of someone being gay “will be a back story and [not] an issue.”
Issues surrounding homosexuality and college athletics will most likely continue to be a topic of discussion for many years to come.
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