Michael Sam, an All-American defensive lineman from the University of Missouri, revealed to the public on Sunday that he’s gay. If Sam is drafted this May, he’ll be the first openly gay player drafted by the NFL.
“I came to tell the world I’m an openly proud gay man,” Sam said in an interview with ESPN.
Sam previously came out to his teammates last August and didn’t experience any issues. Some teammates assumed he was gay and there were rumors that he dated a member of the men’s swim team.
“I understand how big this is,” Sam said in the ESPN interview. “It’s a big deal. No one has done this before. And it’s kind of a nervous process, but I know what I want to be … I want to be a football player in the NFL.”
In an interview with the NY Times, Sam says he chose to come out now because rumors about his sexuality were beginning to circulate and scouts were approaching his agent asking whether he dated or had been seen with women. According to NFL policy, those questions aren’t supposed to be asked.
The NFL issued a statement on Twitter Sunday: “We admire Michael Sam’s honesty and courage. Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014.”
The NFL quickly added, “Any team or employee that inquires about impermissible subjects or makes an employment decision based on such factors is subject to league discipline.”
Sam realizes that even though there are NFL guidelines, he knows that there’s the possibility of publicly coming out affecting his career.
“I’m not naïve,” Sam told the New York Times. “I know this is a huge deal and I know how important this is. But my role as of right now is to train for the combine and play in the NFL.”