NFL-Bound College Football Star Comes Out As Gay

When little-known veteran NBA player Jason Collins made history and last year became the first professional athlete in any of the four major American sporting leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL) to publicly come out as gay, conveyed in his own words in this heartfelt piece written for Sports Illustrated, he noted that a part of him wished “someone else would have already done this”.  

“I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation,” he wrote. “I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, ‘I’m different.’ If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.” 

He’ll be happy to know that no professional athlete in America who happens to be gay will ever have to say that again. 
On Sunday, Michael Sam, a 24 year old All-American defensive lineman for the Missouri Tigers, SEC Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team all-SEC selection (translation: very good at football), publicly announced that he was gay in a series of candid video interviews with the New York Times and ESPN’s “Outside The Lines”.

The likely 2014 NFL draft pick initially came out to his Missouri teammates and coaches during a team building exercise where players were asked to reveal something about themselves that others might not know about.  

“I’m gay,” he said. 

“Once I became official to my teammates, I knew who I was,” Sam said. “I knew that I was gay. And I knew that I was Michael Sam, who’s a Mizzou football player who happens to be gay. I was so proud of myself and I just didn’t care who knew. If someone on the street would have asked me, ‘Hey, Mike, I heard you were gay; is that true?’ I would have said yes.”

In the interview with ESPN, he stated to the rest of the world what his teammates and coaches had known since August, “I am an openly, proud gay man.”  

If drafted, he’ll become the first openly gay NFL player in history. 
This is distinct to Collins’ case for two reasons. Unlike Collins, Sam decided to come out at the start of his career (technically, before), colouring (for better or for worse) the personal narrative of his career from this point forward. And the acknowledgement of his sexual preference comes in the super macho jock culture of professional football, besieged in November of last year by an ugly off-field scandal in which suspended Miami Dolphins player Richie Incognito was accused of psychologically bullying his former teammate Jonathan Martin.
Taking into consideration the proportion of gay men in general society, it is statistically likely that there are dozens more like Sam and Collins who are yet to come out. Former Rugby League star Ian Roberts came out as gay in 1995, becoming the first active player in a major Australian team sport to do so (or since), but insists it is “almost a responsibility for footballers to come out” because “it breaks down stereotypes like nothing else, particularly for young men” who “see only a limited depiction of gay people that they don’t fit.” 

We hope this inspires more to find their voice.