Stand With Sam

This year’s NFL combine will take place starting February 19th and go until February 25th.  The scouting combine is conducted to test the players’ physical and mental abilities in order to evaluate how ready they will be for the NFL.  Throughout the combine, players are susceptible to critiques from not only different coaches throughout the NFL, but also from the media that is present during the week long event.  Michael Sam, a 24-year-old defensive lineman who played collegiate football for Missouri, is one of the bright lights in the media during this combine, but not for the usual football reasons.  Michael Sam is the first openly gay football player that the NFL will meet.  Up until this point there have been no openly gay players in the NFL, NHL, or major league baseball; Jason Collin’s, who plays for the Brooklyn Nets, is the NBA’s first openly gay player.

Michael Sam, who is 6 feet 2 inches tall and 255 pounds, is considered a “tweener” size for a defensive lineman.  According to the New York Times, Sam might be “too small for an NFL defensive end, meaning he would have to learn to play as an outside linebacker”.  During his collegiate career, Michael Sam was a first team all-American player as well as the Associate Press defensive player of the year in the Southeastern Conference last season.  However, now because of his new and very public statement concerning his sexuality, he will not be considered as just a football player, at least not in the eyes of the media.

Michael Sam proudly declared his sexual orientation earlier in the month of February, but did not speak publicly about it until this past weekend when the NFL combine started.  Going into the interviews, Sam expected to be asked about his talent on the football field, but ended up being flooded with questions about his sexual orientation and how he thinks it will affect him in May’s NFL draft.  Throughout the interview, press asked him questions such as why he came out when he did, the fame that has come from his announcement, the culture of the NFL and how he will be accepted when coming into the league, as well as what will happen if one of his new teammates crosses him.  Sam answered each question honestly and with ease.  One quote that stood out the most during his interview was when he said, “I just wish you guys would just see me as Michael Sam the football player instead of Michael Sam the gay football player”.

When I first heard about Michael Sam coming out and announcing to the world that he was gay, my initial thought was “Way to go!” and to this day I am still proud of the courage that Sam showed throughout this whole ordeal.  In today’s world, especially in the NFL, which is loaded with intense testosterone and “macho-ness”, it is not easy for people to openly express that they are different from the norm of society.  Michael Sam, who stated that he “just wants to make sure he can tell his story the way he wants to tell it”, made this announcement knowing that it could potentially affect that way he is looked upon in his professional career.  I admire the way Sam has been honest and open about his sexual orientation, but that he is also not looking to gain special benefits or land a big marketing deal just because of it.  I also respect the fact that he expects to be treated just like everybody else when entering the draft.  He said, “I just want to do what I love to do, and that’s play football”.


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