NFL hopeful Michael Sam draws support after announcing he is gay
By Carey Gillam
KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - National Football League hopeful Michael Sam on Monday drew public support from athletes, fans and politicians after publicly revealing he is gay and potentially becoming the league's first openly gay player.
The NFL and the University of Missouri, where Sam starred as a defensive lineman, rallied around him and even first lady Michelle Obama weighed in, calling him an "inspiration" for his courage on and off the field.
Many fans of Missouri football who have watched Sam on the field said the news was a non-issue.
"Michael's sexual orientation was widely known among the student population this past season and it was never a huge topic of conversation," said Abigail Tingle, a University of Missouri senior. "Nobody I knew seemed upset or looked down on him as a person or a player. We all felt proud of his athletic ability."
Sam is expected to be selected in the upcoming NFL draft, where stand-out college players can earn million-dollar salaries. That makes him poised to become the first openly gay player to compete in any of North America's four major professional sports leagues - football, baseball, basketball and hockey.
Some were less enthusiastic following Sunday's announcement, including former NFL head coach Herm Edwards, who said on ESPN that Sam may bring "baggage" to a locker room because of the media scrutiny placed on him and his team.
And eight NFL executives and coaches interviewed by Sports Illustrated - and who spoke to the publication on the condition of anonymity - said Sam's coming out could hurt his standing in the draft.
Sam decided to make the announcement after it became apparent about two weeks ago that NFL scouts were questioning his sexual orientation, said Los Angeles publicist Howard Bragman, whom Sam hired to help him handle the disclosure. Continued...