Michael Sam Coming out as Gay Hits His Father Hard

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIFebruary 12, 2014

USA Today

Updates from Thursday, Feb. 13

Just two days after Michael Sam Sr. spoke out about his son's major announcement, he now claims he was "terribly misquoted" by the New York Times according to Brandon Williams of the Galveston Daily News (subscription required).

John Breech of CBS Sports has the details:

Specifically, Sam Sr. denies that he told the Times he's a 'man-and-a-woman type of guy.' The elder Sam also denies that he said he didn't want his 'grandkids raised in that kind of environment.'

"I did not say anything about my grandkids," Sam Sr. said on Wednesday. The Sam family is from Hitchcock, Texas, a small town just outside of Galveston.

The New York Times piece also quotes Sam Sr. as saying that NFL Hall of Famer Deacon Jones is probably 'turning over in his grave' because of the younger Sam's announcement. The Times article made that quote come across as somewhat negative, even saying that Sam Sr. grumbled the quote. However, the elder Sam says that quote was meant to be positive.

"I told them that Deacon Jones is going to roll over in his grave because here comes my son and that's he's going to be a star in the NFL," Sam Sr. said.

In Wednesday's interview with the Daily News, the elder Sam came out in full support of his son. "My son did the right thing, and I am not against him at all. He has made a great statement in coming out, and that he should be able to play in the NFL. I love him unconditionally," Sam Sr. said. "Once he gets on the field and hits (someone) once, they won't think he's gay."


Original Text

NFL prospect Michael Sam has taken the sports world by storm with his public proclamation on Sunday that he is gay. The former Missouri Tigers defensive end was Co-Defensive Player of the Year in the SEC this past season and will likely be selected in the 2014 NFL draft, making history in the process.

But while Sam has received a lot of support over the past year from his teammates and recently from the media, Missouri fans and others, his father hasn't been as quick to accept Sam's sexual orientation.

Joe Drape, Steve Eder and Billy Witz of The New York Times reported that Michael Sam Sr. was celebrating his birthday at a local Denny's restaurant in the Dallas area last Tuesday when his son text messaged him: "Dad, I'm gay."

It shook Sam Sr. to the point that he was unable to finish his meal.

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"I couldn’t eat no more, so I went to Applebee’s to have drinks,” said Sam Sr. “I don’t want my grandkids raised in that kind of environment...I’m old-school. I’m a man and a woman type of guy."

The Times piece is an extended feature, profiling Michael Sam's childhood, including some of the difficulties his siblings faced. The article led ESPN's Keith Law to weigh in with an explosive take:

The stance Sam Sr. takes is in stark contrast to widespread praise his son has garnered for his courageous decision to come out before the draft.

Sam took to Twitter for the first time to express his gratitude for the support from the NFL, as well as ESPN and The New York Times, as Chris Connelly and John Branch first reported on Sam's news for the outlets respectively:

The tribute some Tigers faithful paid to Sam in the Columbia snow is also worth seeing:

Although he did say that he loves his son and wants him to continue thriving as he hits the next stage of his football career, there is still an inner dilemma going on for Sam Sr., who also remarked that Hall of Fame defensive end Deacon Jones would be "turning over in his grave."

"As a black man, we have so many hurdles to cross,” said Sam Sr. “This is just one [Sam] has to cross.”

Sam Sr. raised his son in a rough environment, which caused the football star to say that the circumstances he faced in his youth were far more adverse than the consequences he braced for in his barrier-breaking announcement.

“I’m closer to my friends than I am to my family,” said Sam, who often stays with his friends rather than his family when he returns home to visit. Sam said his family gained an air of infamy in his hometown of Hitchcock, Texas, per The New York Times report:

It was very hard growing up in that environment. My family was very notorious in the town that we lived in. Everyone would say, "There goes those damn Sams." I didn’t want to paint that ill picture of me. I knew the good in my family. They didn’t know our background and the adversity we had to endure. I wanted to succeed and be a beacon of hope in my family.

The younger Sam clearly understood the ramifications of his decision and expected his family's uneasiness with the announcement. His willingness to come forward nonetheless further exemplifies the strength and incredible courage he holds as a person.