Sam becomes first openly gay player to be drafted

NEW YORK Sat May 10, 2014 8:37pm EDT

Feb 22, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Missouri Tigers defensive end Michael Sam speaks to the media in a press conference during the 2014 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 22, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Missouri Tigers defensive end Michael Sam speaks to the media in a press conference during the 2014 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Defensive end Michael Sam of the University of Missouri became the first openly gay player to be selected in a National Football League Draft when he was taken in the seventh round by the St. Louis Rams on Saturday.

Sam, the co-defensive player of the year in the Southeastern Conference who announced he was gay in February, would become the first openly gay player in the NFL should he make the team's 53-man regular season roster this summer.

The defensive end was taken on the 249th pick in the last round of the three-day draft at Radio City Music Hall.

Television cameras captured Sam receiving the phone call informing him of his selection, the Texan breaking into tears and shaking with joy at the news.

"Thank you to the St. Louis Rams and the whole city of St. Louis. I'm using every ounce of this to achieve greatness!!" He posted on his Twitter account.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher told the NFL Network: "I'm excited about our draft and excited about the possibility of adding him to our defensive front.

"After doing the studies, he's a good football player," Fisher said about the pick.

The NFL (@nfl) tweeted: "Welcome to the NFL, @MikeSamFootball."

GAY PIONEER

Sam would become the second openly gay player in one of North America's four major professional team sports following basketball's Jason Collins, who joined the NBA's Brooklyn Nets this season.

"I think it's a great day for the NFL and for Michael and his family," Collins told ESPN before taking the court for the Nets' playoff game against the Miami Heat.

As for the significance of the day and what it means for the gay community, Collins said: "It takes more and more people just to come forward. We're normal people and we're just trying to make plays to make our respective teams win."

The 6-feet-2 (1.88 m), 260-pound (118 kg) Sam led the conference in sacks and in tackles for a loss, but waited until seven picks before the end of the draft to hear his name called after his stock fell following mediocre results at February's scouting combine.

Despite his success at Missouri, talent evaluators had said Sam might struggle to fit in on the field over concerns he might be too small to play regularly on the defensive line and not athletic enough to play in space as a linebacker.

DIVERSE WORLD

Rams coach Fisher did not think that would be an issue.

"He's a player who was graded much higher on our draft board and he fell and we weren't going to miss out on this opportunity to add an outstanding football player to our program," Fisher told ESPN.

"In a world of diversity we live in now, I'm honored to be a part of this and excited about his opportunity to help this football team win."

Sam might benefit from a comfort level with his NFL team only a two-hour drive from the Missouri campus in Columbia.

Fisher said he was unconcerned about an anticipated media crush to cover Sam at training camp or about any problems within the clubhouse over welcoming a gay player.

"I don't have any concern whatsoever," said Fisher. "We drafted a good football player. I'm excited to get him on the practice field and get him going.

"There's going to be a little extra attention for a couple of days but...we're looking forward to this opportunity.

"We have a young team, (but) a very mature team. We're not going to let any kind of distractions affect this football team."

(Additional reporting by Gene Cherry and Andrew Both; Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes/Patrick Johnston)

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Comments (2)
Payback wrote:
Well, some times it’s best to keep that you’re gay inside yourself. Now this player will see others looking over their shoulder watching out for his eye contact. This is a lawsuit waiting to happen. How? The male straight players can file a suit with the players union stating that this gay player needs his own locker room. It has become a hostile environment for the straight players because they feel that they cannot be nude in the showers or in the open for fear of the gay player watching them. TA-DAA!

May 10, 2014 9:24pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
boyscout wrote:
The NFL is always talking about all these standards it upholds and the fcc is given a large budget to screen inapropriate things from our tv viewing on public telivision but yesterday was totally out of line in showing two men kissing. There used to be a thing called discression. I am glad that gay people won some of their rights to be openly gay but that does not mean that something that many find offensive has to be in your face 24/7. I know Jeff Fisher will give Sam every opportunity to succeed but in their context the only important thing is can the dude play football and help the team win. I found it disgussting and totally inappropriate to show him kissing his boyfriend on tv. IF you are going to do that then show cheerleaders making out scantily clad for the straight audience. OH yes that would be inappropriate too. Just because something has been deemed tolerable to some does not mean we must be subjected to it if we do not agree. WE all know that everything the sports leagues do is only in the context of does it make us more money. Keep inappropriate things off the networks that is for pay tv for those who accept it.

May 11, 2014 10:03am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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