Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders has seen it all in his day. So when the former Detroit Lion running back was asked his thoughts on Michael Sam’s chances of being accepted within NFL locker rooms this season, Sanders was his usual candid self:
“Guys are more forward thinking than you think,” he said according to a report on The Detroit News. “I’m pretty sure every guy in this league has been around gay individuals before, and so I don’t think it will be much different.”
Sanders continued, talking about how Sam will be accepted because football players judge men on their talents and little else:
“From the time you’re a kid and you start playing, you’re almost programmed for ‘Can a guy play or not?’ By the time you get to the NFL, that’s well ingrained.”
Barry Sanders’ remarks stem from an appearance at a two-day “Fan Fest” for the NFL Hall of Fame. Barry was joined by many football legends and inductees who shared his line of thinking about Michael Sam. Hall of Famer Art Shell, when asked about Michael Sam, reiterated Barry’s candor:
“The one thing about football players, they’re inclusive,” Shell told the press. “They will take you for who you are, not what people try to portray you as.”
As the first openly homosexual player to enter the NFL draft, Michael Sam faces a world of scrutiny unlike any player before him. Since announcing his sexual orientation, he’s had vocal support from many facets of the the public world, including both Barack and Michelle Obama, who praised Sam for coming out before the draft.
But politicians and advocates will not be sharing locker rooms and team buses with Michael, so it’s vital that both former and current players embrace his presence in the league. One current NFL player who openly supports Michael Sam is 2013′s Defensive Rookie of the Year, Sheldon Richardson. Richardson was Sam’s roomate at Missouri, and told SportsNet New York‘s Jeane Coakley in an interview that he thinks Sam will be accepted in the NFL.
However he did add, “unless your team is immature minded. If guys can’t get past that then, I mean, it’s just crazy. Of course, it might be weird at first if you aren’t used to it, ’cause like I said, with me living with him, it was a little bit unusual at first. But it’s stuff you look past.”
In the end though, Richardson agrees with Barry Sanders and even points to Michael’s coming out as to what led him to his best year of football in college:
“Just him getting that monkey off his back was well worth it ’cause he had his best season of football at Mizzou.”
Hopefully, the rest of the league will agree with Barry Sanders’ position on Michael Sam as well.