NFL hopeful Michael Sam draws support after announcing he is gay

Mon Feb 10, 2014 7:11pm EST
 
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By Carey Gillam

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - National Football League hopeful Michael Sam on Monday drew public support from athletes, fans and politicians after he disclosed he is gay and became potentially the league's first openly homosexual player.

The NFL and the University of Missouri, where Sam starred as a defensive lineman, rallied around him. 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 also showed support and said the news was a non-issue.

"It didn't affect his play last year and he's the same person as he was before this was widely known," said Taylor Foitle, a senior at the university and ardent fan of the Tigers.

Sam is expected to be selected in the upcoming NFL draft, where stand-out college players can earn million-dollar salaries. If picked, he would 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 commentators 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 on the condition of anonymity said Sam's coming out could hurt his standing in the draft.

On Yahoo message boards, some people criticized Sam for going public with his sexual orientation, with one anonymous commentator accusing him of trying to gain publicity for "deviant behavior," and another arguing that Sam should not be allowed in the same locker room as male teammates.   Continued...

 
Jan 3, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Missouri Tigers defensive lineman Michael Sam (52) reacts after a play during the second half against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the 2014 Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports