Michael Sam made American sports history on Sunday with one little, but very monumental statement.
In an interview with ESPN's Chris Connelly, as noted by Dan Graziano, Sam said, "I came to tell the world that I am an openly proud, gay man." The statement immediately went viral throughout not only the sports world, but all across the country.
Sam's announcement was historic. He became the first openly gay NFL draft prospect, and will likely be the first openly gay NFL player once the NFL draft rolls around in May.
The statement took integrity, toughness and courage by the Co-SEC Defensive Player of the Year. Sam will certainly be scrutinized by the media, NFL teams and players over the next few months leading up to the draft and throughout his rookie season.
With the biggest interview of his life on the horizon, it may seem like the least ideal time to make such an announcement, but Sam, as he put it in his interview, wanted to "own his truth." He wanted the world to know who he was before his professional journey began.
There are lots of questions now about Michael Sam. One of the biggest: How will Sam's announcement affect his NFL draft stock?
The obvious hope is that it does not have any effect on his draft stock. Hopefully scouts and teams can just look at the film and judge Sam based on his football skills and not on his sexual orientation.
That seems very unlikely to happen.
Sam will face questions from organizations about his sexuality. Some teams may choose to not draft him because they are afraid how he will fit into their locker room.
All it takes is one team, though. One team that looks at the film, sees how great of a player Michael Sam is and looks past his sexual orientation to realize that he is just another guy who wants to live his life and play the game he loves: football.
So instead of looking at this from a negative perspective, thinking of all the negativity that Sam could face and why his announcement could make his draft stock fall, let's look at the positive side of this.
Could coming out help Michael Sam's draft stock?
Look at things this way. Think of the strength and courage it took for Michael Sam to make this announcement. Think of what a leader he was for the Missouri defense and how all of these characteristics can translate over and make Sam not only a good player in the NFL, but a great one.
If teams are looking for a top pass-rusher, would they rather have the Co-SEC Defensive Player of the Year, who is willing to stand in front of an entire nation and openly announce that he hopes to become the first openly gay NFL player, or just some other guy who put his name in for the NFL draft?
Now I am not saying that teams should just draft Michael Sam because he is gay, but because of the character he showed by his willingness to come out and let the world know of his sexuality.
The NFL has always been looked at as a business that is all about results. All Michael Sam did in college was get results for the Missouri Tigers defense.
When asked how he hopes coaches and players will deal with his sexual orientation, Sam responded, "It shouldn't matter. If I work hard, if I make plays, that's all that should matter. Can he help us win games? Is he a team player? That's all that should matter."
Michael Sam is absolutely right. It shouldn't matter, not one bit. Michael Sam is a football player who is ready to make the move to the NFL; he showed that to us every Saturday this past fall. Sunday night he showed the world that he is more than ready to announce that he is a gay athlete and face the pressure and scrutiny that comes with being the first openly gay NFL player.
"I'm not afraid of who I am. I'm not afraid to tell the world who I am. I'm Michael Sam, I'm a college graduate, I'm an African-American and I'm gay."
Michael Sam is ready for the NFL. It's time for the NFL to open its arms and show that it is ready to accept him for who he is.
A great guy and a damn good football player.
Because as Michael Sam said, "That's all that should matter."
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