Editor’s note: The following is the transcript from the video reflection put together by ABC 17 Sports Director Austin Kim.
Football has a culture of masculinity and brawn. But the decision to draft the first openly gay football player takes a similar toughness and a disregard for critics.
Michael Sam, who was drafted No. 249 by the St. Louis Rams, may not change the football culture himself. But he has given so many others another outlet to express themselves.
“I’ve gotten so many emails, so many text messages from college and NFL players and other athletes in the sports industry about how courageous I was,” Sam said in an interview with Good Morning America last week. “They themselves are closeted homosexuals. I am not the only one.”
Some may ask, ‘why is this a big deal? Why not just focus on football? To most people’s immediate world, Sam’s public declaration of his sexuality is not a big deal. But for those who struggle to find an identity or are simply looking for inspiration, he is an icon. It would be unjust to not call his draft experience historic.
Ask the other three Missouri players on the St. Louis Rams roster. Center Tim Barnes, fellow- draft pick E.J. Gaines, and wide receiver T.J. Moe shared a locker room with Sam at the University of Missouri. When Sam was in that locker room for five season, the Tigers went 43-22.
That does not sound like a team “distracted” by a gay teammate.
St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher did not seem bothered by drafted a gay football player. Fisher, much like Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel, was never afraid to go against the grain. The move shows Fisher and the Rams organization is in touch with society, and is not timid of the negative views Sam’s draft selection may bring upon the organization.
“We’re in an age of diversity,” Fisher told reporters after the Rams drafted Sam. “The players understand that. They know that. I think the University of Missouri should be commended on how they handled that thing. Because it is not a distraction. People will try to make it a distraction. But it is not a distraction.
The selection, Sam’s reaction, the kiss with his boyfriend- these are all iconic moments for anyone involved in sports. But like every draft pick, Sam must move on and prove himself on the field. The dialogue will soon shift to the on-the-field performance (as it should).
Time will tell if Sam is ready to make an impact on the field, as he has already one off of it.