Reaction to Missouri All-American and NFL prospect Michael Sam saying in interviews with ESPN, Outsports and The New York Times that he is gay:
" I don't think it's a big deal... Quite honestly, I care about having teammates that are men of integrity and men of honor and valor and humilty .. and it's more about his ability and the kind of character he has that will determine whether he's going to secuere a roster slot,"
-- Buffalo Bills Color Commentator Mark Kelso, Former Bills Safety
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" It's a big deal because of the cultural significance , but you have to remember that he was voted MVP by his teammates after they knew he was gay, (after coming out to them in August) ... I think it's a big deal for him because he gets to live his life as the person he's supposed to be ."
- Tim Moran, Publisher, Outcome Buffalo, WNYs gay newsweekly.
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"It takes an incredible amount of courage to break ground on a social issue on a national stage. Michael Sam is a young man of tremendous fortitude and confidence. It is these traits that make it possible for him to be among the best on the field and now to have an impact on the world of sport in a very important way. I also applaud the wonderful support given to him by his teammates and the University of Missouri."
- Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive.
"I think a lot of guys in the NFL are going to say they will accept it, but there are a lot of guys who won't. The reality is Michael Sam is going to open himself up to a lot of criticism and a lot of challenges. Those are challenges most gay people have to go through, but when you are dealing with alpha males and some meatheads in an NFL locker room it's amplified. And there are some guys who have strong religious beliefs too, so he's going to be judged. He's going to face some things that are going to be very difficult to overcome."
- Former NFL offensive lineman Frank Garcia, now a sports radio show host with WFNZ-AM in Charlotte.
"Had multiple convos with @MikeSamFootball this year, amazed at his honesty & courage! Once a tiger, ALWAYS a Tiger."
- Kansas City Chiefs quarterback and former Missouri star Chase Daniel on Twitter @ChaseDaniel.
"Very happy for Michael Sam. His courage will inspire millions to live their truth."
- MLS player Robbie Rogers, who is gay, on Twitter.
"I could care less about a man's sexual preference! i care about winning games and being respectful in the locker room!"
- Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams on Twitter @DeAngeloRB.
"We are so proud of Michael for what he has accomplished at Mizzou academically, socially and competitively. This is a young man who earned his degree from MU, was a unanimous All-American on the football field and now he's being a leader in his personal life. He continues to display great character, courage and compassion. We are proud of him on every level."
- Missouri Athletic Director Mike Alden.
"Best of luck in the draft @MikeSamFootball. #respect #YouCanPlay@YouCanPlayTeam"
- Former NFL player Zak DeOssie on Twitter @zdeossie.
"There will be some interest early on (and missteps), but by week one, it'll be a non story. The way it should be from that point on."
- Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon McCarthy on Twitter @BMcCarthy32.
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-- I see a irony between a people that CELEBRATE on a world-wide stage who they sleep with and in the same vain- they want their sexual preferences to be treated as "normal"! Well why the fanfare if you want normalcy
--Aren't We BEYOND This Yet??? What is the big deal about a gay man in football?? So tired of people making "Big News" with stuff like this - I don't care who he sleeps with -
--It seems to me that you are making this a big deal by just reporting this.
-- It's the 1st football player in the country to come out in the open about his sexuality and suddenly it's "no big deal"? It's great that so many people are accepting of this but to say it's not a new story.... I can just imagine what facebook would have been like when Rosa Parks rode the bus that day? and if the media didn't report on it the haters would be whining about that too. No win situation
--Yes. It's a big deal and it's important. A couple years ago, football players waited until retirement to come out - if ever. Making that known pre-draft shows how much progress toward acceptance of LGBT persons has been made in a short time. The announcement is not about Sam's sex life (as some comments here imply); it is about being proud of who you are regardless of orientation, and the willingness to challenge stereotypes
The AP's Paul Newberry writes:
Michael Sam could've taken the - well, not the easy, but certainly the easier - way out by staying mum on his sexual orientation, at least until after the NFL draft.
Instead, one of the nation's top college football players bravely decided to speak now, to tell the world he is gay at a time when NFL teams are grading the guys they'll be picking in a couple of months.
This is not Jason Collins, as courageous as he was, coming out at the end of his NBA career. This is a young man just getting started as a professional, after leading Missouri to one of the best seasons in school history.
Finally, we'll get to see how this plays out, an openly gay player lining up in America's most popular sport. Finally, we'll get to see what barriers we've broken down and, more important, what hurdles remain when someone acknowledges they are gay, then competes with and against guys who may be repelled by the notion of having a relationship with another man.
Because of Sam, it will be easier for the next guy. And the guy after that. But for all the progress this country has made in gay rights, there will surely be plenty of ugliness in the weeks and months and years to come.
"The reality is: Michael Sam is going to open himself up to a lot of criticism and a lot of challenges," said former NFL offensive lineman Frank Garcia, now a sports radio show host in Charlotte. "Those are challenges most gay people have to go through, but when you are dealing with alpha males and some meatheads in an NFL locker room, it's amplified. And there are some guys who have strong religious beliefs too, so he's going to be judged. He's going to face some things that are going to be very difficult to overcome."
We've already gotten more than a glimpse at what Sam will face. At last year's Super Bowl, San Francisco cornerback Chris Culliver made a fool of himself when jokingly asked by comedian Artie Lange if he would ever pursue a gay man.
"Ain't got no gay people on the team," Culliver said. "They gotta get up outta here if they do. Can't be with that sweet stuff."
A few years ago, I broached the idea of having an openly gay teammate to several players in the Atlanta Braves clubhouse. One freely conceded he would be uncomfortable dressing or showering in front of someone he knew was gay, and I've long suspected he was not alone in that attitude. Anyone who has ever been in a sports locker room knows what a macho world that can be, where distasteful - even hurtful - words are thrown around with shocking frequency.
Just ask Jonathan Martin, the offensive lineman who walked away from the Miami Dolphins this past season, claiming he had been bullied and harassed daily by teammate Richie Incognito and others.
Eight NFL executives and coaches, interviewed by SI.com and given anonymity so they could give their true opinions, revealed the daunting challenges that Sam set himself up for by coming out ahead of the draft.
Before he spoke, the Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year was projected as a mid- to late-round draft pick. Now, according to everyone interviewed by SI.com, his stock will certainly plummet.
"I just know with this going on this is going to drop him down," said a veteran NFL scout. "Do you want to be the team to, quote-unquote, break that barrier?"
A player personnel assistant added, "I don't think football is ready for it just yet. In the coming decade or two, it's going to be acceptable, but at this point in time it's still a man's-man game. To call somebody a (gay slur) is still so commonplace."
Imagine what Sam might face on the field, in a sport where it's not all that unusual for a player to exact his own version of justice with a low blow or a dirty block.
But there's some encouraging signs, as well.
Sam came out in August to his teammates and coaches at Missouri, and it sure didn't seem to have any negative impact on the Tigers. They went 12-2, won the SEC East Division title, and defeated Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl. Sam, a 6-foot-2, 255-pound defensive end, led the conference in sacks (11.5) and tackles for loss (19).
"Michael is a great example of just how important it is to be respectful of others, he's taught a lot of people here firsthand that it doesn't matter what your background is, or your personal orientation, we're all on the same team and we all support each other," coach Gary Pinkel said. "If Michael doesn't have the support of his teammates like he did this past year, I don't think there's any way he has the type of season he put together."
Let's hope there's another team, another group of players that feels the same way, that judges Sam by what he can do on a football field.
Nothing more. Nothing less.