When you play a sport what’s your biggest fear? Not catching the ball to make a touchdown, missing a goal, or getting disqualified during your race? To Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, up until last year his biggest fear wasn’t failing on the field, it was failing off of it. 24 year old Sam came at a press conference stating that he is gay. Sam told the New York Times that “"just want[ed] to make sure [he] could tell [his] story the way [he] want[ed] to tell it.[he] just want[ed] to own [his] truth” which is why he came out to his teammates.
After much commotion with the National Football League, and whether his sexual orientation would affect his draft pick, Sam stated to New York Times Daily News that “[he’s] surprised by all the support [from the fans]”. Sam like any other athlete was worried about whether he would even be looked upon to be drafted, however several NFL coaches, including general manager of the New York Giants Jerry Reese stated to the Ny Times that “What people do in their personal life, I’m not concerned with that. He’s a good football player.” Earlier that year Sam had won the Southeastern Conference top defensive man of the league award. This promotes Sam to tons of NFL teams.
As any other professional athlete, obviously Sam cares about what his fans think because just as much as professional sports are about the athletic itself, it also involves tons of publicity. Any one thing that gets out can impact or even ruin an athletes’ reputation.
Take former NFL New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez, who ruined his career and his life by shooting and killing a man. Ever since the incident that took place in the summer of 2013, Hernandez has been known as a killer, despite the successful career that he once had with the Patriots.
Another example is former Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps. In February of 2009, Phelps was caught smoking marijuana, resulting in a three month suspension from the United States Swimming league. Even though the incident happened nearly five years ago, and within that time span Phelps became the most decorated Olympian of all time, people still refer to Phelps as the ‘pothead swimmer’.
With these and many more examples of athletes that are known for anything other than their actual performance, Sam had more than enough reasons to be nervous of coming out. Obviously, in any case no one should be judged because of their sexual orientation, however Sam explained to the NY Times that “[he] didn’t want to be known as the gay football player”.
Sam is the first ever NFL player to come out as gay. There have been other cases where players have came out, however it was either after they retired, or well into their careers.Based on his credentials to being an exceptional player, Sams’ chances of being drafted are very high. With high hopes to become an official NFL player, Sam has a supportive system of fans and family behind him to be able to succeed with his football career.