Sam I Am

By: Anthony Alongi

Last week when Missouri defensive end and NFL prospect, Michael Sam, announced publicly that he was gay, it immediately became one of the biggest milestone moments in the history of the league.  I knew it was coming.  You knew it was coming.  When I saw the news break on ESPN though, it was crazy as hell to see.  It actually happened!  Whether or not Sam’s draft status goes up or down won’t change the fact that he will be playing in an NFL uniform in a city near you.  He was an All-SEC defensive player that totaled 11.5 sacks last year, so yeah, he will bring talent and play-making ability to the team that takes him.

Shortly after  Sam came out, it was revealed that he told his Missouri teammates about his sexuality at the beginning of this season. From all accounts his teammates took him in with arms wide open and didn’t let one thing about him, a thing that shouldn’t matter, overshadow his character and the man that they all knew him to be.  They glow when they speak about him.  If kids who can’t even legally drink yet can be open-minded towards the idea of a gay teammate, why can’t a bunch of mature, adult professionals do the same?

The NFL is ready for this; at least that’s what the white-collar folks in the front office have to say about the matter.  What about the guys that play with him; the guys that have women throwing themselves at them as a perk to their profession?  An NFL locker room is a palace for the macho and being gay is not exactly one of the most qualifying traits.  Not every player will agree with Sam’s sexual preference, and fewer will agree.

For the large part, players have been very encouraging and accepting towards Sam across the league. The signs of progression and evolution in the NFL are heavily evident and it is awesome to see. However, the reality of what can go down in a locker room became evident last year with the Dolphins ordeal. Several players have already expressed their discontent with Sam’s announcement on Twitter. It’s hard not to imagine how much worse it could be if something were to happen with a gay player. All of a sudden it turns into a question of sexual harassment and that is the absolute last thing the league wants.

My personal hope is that Michael Sam will not only be accepted, but embraced by his teammates and fellow players alike.  The courage and confidence he displayed in himself is something to be admired.  He knew full well what he was getting himself into and he did it anyway.  We can learn a lot from him, most importantly how to be ourselves even in a world that tries to scare us to be anything but.  He is right here and hiding from nobody.

I believe that this young man looked into his future and pictured himself living a lie, maybe he even considered buying into it; but he didn’t, and there is no turning back now.  A lot of guys enter and exit the NFL without ever making a ripple, this guy just cannon-balled into it and isn’t even on a team yet.

The door (or closet door, haha) has been opened and there will be more that will come through it.  We will see more of this in the near future and years from now it will become commonplace and your opinion matters not one iota.  Welcome to the NFL in 2014.  No matter how many sacks Michael Sam manages to get in his career, it will prove trivial compared to the impact he made off the field; that of a pioneer, a fearless one.

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