Michael Sam might drop in draft after coming out

“I am a gay man,” said Michael Sam in an interview with ESPN. Those five words from a NFL prospect sent shockwaves globally.

If selected in the upcoming draft, Sam will be the first openly gay athlete in the NFL.

In August, before the football season kicked off for the University of Missouri, Sam’s teammates were the first to hear the news. The locker room supported him and his decision.

“It wouldn’t be a big issue,” said first-year lacrosse player David Felipe. “I would be fine with it as long as it didn’t affect the locker room.”

Although his sexual orientation was old news to his teammates, the issue raised many questions in the eyes of the public.

“Initially, I thought it was great,” said Northern High School cheerleading captain Bianca Decatur in an email interview. “Coming out is terribly difficult for anyone, and doing it in the public eye must be ten times worse.”

Many of his peers thought Sam’s coming-out announcement would affect his chances of getting drafted.

“People insist that it will affect his draft placement, but he is one of the best football players in the country,” said senior football player Faris El-Ali in an email interview. “His sexuality has nothing to do with his ability to compete.”

Sam’s football abilities cannot be denied. Just this past year, he was awarded the 2013 Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year, an accomplishment in its own right.

“According to the experts, Michael Sam is listed as one of the best college football players this year,” said head football coach Chris Rusiewicz. “His sexual preference did not impact his abilities to perform his craft on the football field.”

Some players, like New Orleans Saints’ linebacker Jonathan Vilma, voiced concern about the locker room situation in an interview with the NFL Network.

“Imagine he’s the guy next to me, and you know, I get dressed, naked, taking a shower, the whole nine, and it just so happens he looks at me, how am I supposed to respond?” said Vilma.

Sam, though, has already handled the situation professionally.

“Like I said (before), my teammates accepted me,” said Sam. “We showered together in the locker rooms, and it was never a problem.

“It is a business workplace, and we have to act professional.”

Sam’s announcement comes at a time when an increasing number of people have become comfortable with increased awareness of the LGBTQQA community.

As a result, there is hope that Sam will be able to change the stereotype that gay men are less masculine.

“Every man or woman who comes out changes the perspective of those around them,” said Brian Kitts, co-founder of the You Can Play project in an email interview with The Guilfordian. “In Michael’s case, there are a lot of college, pro football players and fans who now know someone who’s gay.

“I’d like to think the definitions of masculinity and femininity that define athletes will start to fade.”

Others believe he will be seen as an exception rather than the rule.

“The LGBTQQA community is stereotyped as feminine-like males,” said an anonymous member of the Gay-Straight Alliance in a phone interview. “Masculinity is, in part, defined as being straight.

“A masculine football player who comes out as gay will simply be seen as an exception to the rule.”

Despite the skepticism, Sam said that he wants to inspire gay athletes in school struggling with their identity. He himself faced many struggles that, in his opinion, triumph over issues regarding his sexual orientation.

“Growing up was very hard — very hard to see the things that I saw,” said Sam. “Police coming in our home, for my brothers, arresting them.”

Sam’s history emphasizes the idea that there is much more to a person than their sexual orientation. In the end, he wants to be known in the sports world for his sportsmanship and not the labels around it.

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