Hall of Famer Deion Sanders played with five different franchises during his 14-year career. He states there were gay players on every one of those rosters, and the locker room knew it.
Sanders made the comments while making an appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show. He said NFL draft prospect Michael Sam won't be the first gay player in the league's history, but rather the first one to play after making the information public.
The NFL Network analyst talked about how he feels the Sam situation is a chance for the league to follow through on the talk about how everybody is part of a family.
Sanders didn't take a stance on the issue of homosexuality itself, simply stating it was something he didn't "condone nor condemn." At the same time, he said the teams he played on looked out for gay teammates just like anybody else.
He went on to back up a sentiment many around sports have echoed since the topic of gay athletes came to the forefront: The only thing that truly matters is whether the person can play. Everything else is secondary.
Sanders has supported Sam's effort from the beginning. In fact, after the defensive prospect made the announcement, Sam took to Twitter and thanked those who were encouraging him, including Sanders and fellow legend Jerome Bettis:
The fact Sanders said every team he played for had at least one gay player shouldn't come as a surprise. The situation has never been about gay athletes and sports, but rather openly gay athletes and how they would be treated, especially in a violent sport like football.
Will the Sam story continue to attract attention after Week 1?
Sanders is helping debunk any myths that gay players weren't around in the past, while Sam is paving the way for other players in the same position on a personal level to live their life openly.
Moving forward, the Sam story will continue to dominate headlines through at least the first regular-season game he plays in. His draft stock remains a point of contention, but he should have enough talent to get selected in the later rounds.
In a perfect world, Sam plays in that first game, the novelty factor is eliminated, and everybody moves on to the next hot topic. Whether that will actually happen is a big unknown.