Michael Sam is still striving to become the NFL’s first openly gay player, but said this week that he knows of several other players in the league who are in the closet and afraid to come out.
The former seventh round draft pick of the St. Louis Rams was unable to make an NFL roster last season and recently showed off his skills at the first-ever veteran combine, hoping that a team will take notice.
But while the undersized defensive end is trying to earn a place in the NFL, he has also used his fame to bring light on the plight of other gay players. In an interview this week with the Dallas Star-Telegram, Sam said several other players had reached out in confidence to tell them they were gay, too.
“I am not the only gay person in the NFL. I’m just saying there is a lot of us,” Sam said. “I respect the players that did reach out to me and had the courage to tell me that they were also gay, but they do not have the same courage as I do to come out before I even played a down in the NFL.”
Michael Sam said he wouldn’t reveal names, but did say there were some “famous” players who reached out.
“The players who have reached out to me and told me about their sexual orientation, it just means a lot. But I will never say anything about who they are, what teams they are [on]. I’m just saying there’s some famous people, and I’m not the only one.”
There had been reports of other gay players in the NFL and a handful have come out after retiring, but so far, none have come forward during their playing days. Back in the 2013 offseason, there were rumors that a gay player was preparing to come out. Within days, the reports indicated that a group of gay players were planning on coming out at the same time, earning the support of several players.
Linebacker Scott Fujita, who has been an advocate for equal rights, said at the time that he would welcome a gay teammate.
“The coming out of a player would create much bigger waves outside the locker room than inside. The way I’ve seen the conversation around LGBT issues evolve, especially in the past few years, has been encouraging,” Fujita said. “Guys are more accepting than they used to be. Even those who raise personal objections to homosexuality, some of whom are good friends of mine, would still be able to coexist and accept a gay teammate.”
But the players never came out, meaning Michael Sam would still be the NFL’s first openly gay player if he were to make a roster this year. He remains a free agent.
[Image via Mizzou TV]