JOHNNY FLORES/Coachella Uninc
COLUMBIA, Mo. — He’s 6-foot-2, 255 pounds, and an All-American football player who recently graduated from the University of Missouri.
Did I mention he is gay?
His name is Michael Sam and, on February 11, he shared this information with Chris Connelly during on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines.”
“I came to tell the world that I’m an openly, proud gay man,” said Sam. Should Sam be drafted in May, as is expected, he will become the first openly gay player in the National Football League.
“I’m not afraid to tell the world who I am. I’m Michael Sam: I’m a college graduate. I’m African American, and I’m gay,” he said. “I’m comfortable in my skin.
While it’s nice to know that the “manly” world of football will soon have an openly gay player, how does Sam coming out affect teenagers like myself?
The way I see it, Sam would rather give up his NFL dream than live in a lie — a decision I support. The idea of having to live a lie and hide the truth should now be abolished thanks to the bravery and courageousness shown by Sam. As a sports fan myself, I have more respect for players who come out and admit their sexuality rather than hide behind a facade.
Sam also sets a precedent for players and coaches alike, not only in the sport of football but also in all sports. By coming out of the closet, Sam now stands as encouragement for other players and coaches to come out as well. Whether or not others will follow suit remains to be seen.
Sam is a role model for gay athletes whether they are playing in high school, college, or professional leagues. Furthering this notion of being a role model for athletes, Sam’s story can be used to motivate young gay men who are in high school and would like to play football or any other sport such as baseball or water polo, however, are stuck in the mentality of not being accepted and chastised for attempting to play the “manliest” of all sports.
Young gay men and women will soon be able say to themselves, “If Michael Sam can play a professional sport and be openly gay, then so can I.”
Lastly, on a personal note — the University of Missouri-Columbia stands at the top of my list for prospective colleges. Its strong sense of community paired with excellent liberal arts programs pique my interest. However, now I can add to “acceptance of diversity” to this list. Not only has Mizzou acknowledged Sam’s honesty, but they have also elected to support him 100 percent.
Students even went as far as to etch the letters “S” and “A” into the snow that covers Faurot Field, where Sam played. Together these letters help spell out Sam with the addition of the Mizzou “M.”
We are a step closer to creating a country where everyone has the right to be free to live his or her truth, to live in peace without the fear of being bullied.
And, soon, we will hopefully live in a world where a gay athlete pursuing his dream of playing in the NFL is not newsworthy at all.