I’ll admit upfront that I’m not really a sports fan. I learned about baseball from my parents, so I know the proper terminology, but outside of that sport, I really couldn’t tell you much of anything other than which athletes look good. That being said, I’m unexpectedly excited about Michael Sam, the Missouri Tigers football player who came out just before the NFL draft.
Why? It’s not like Sam is the first out athlete, let alone the first gay football player. But…once he’s drafted, he will be the first out NFL player. And he won’t be coming out later in his career, either. He’s just joining now. Now, Sam was already expected to be a middle-to-late round draft pick, so the big question is whether his coming out will help or hurt his chances in the draft.
On the record, plenty of team representatives have said they’d have no problem picking Sam, but some NFL executives and coaches have also indicated that he’d likely drop in the drafts now.
In other words, coming out very well may have affected his career before he joins a team.
Still, we’ll see what team ultimately drafts Sam. A lot of speculation actually points to our very own Atlanta Falcons as a potential team for Sam. General Manager Thomas Dimitroff has publicly thrown his support behind Sam, and people who know much more about football than me have noted that his pass-rush ability is something the Falcons need.
And let’s be honest: a gay football player may draw a lot of attention, but it’s not like Falcons players haven’t drawn attention for aspects of their personal lives (see: Michael Vick). Plus, it may take seeing an openly gay man kicking ass on a football field to change some minds about homosexuality. Why not have it be on an Atlanta team?