Michael Sam made history in becoming the first openly gay player drafted into the NFL. But he insists he does not stand alone.
Sam declined to estimate how many gay athletes play in the NFL. But he said Thursday that several players contacted him after the St. Louis Rams made Sam a seventh-round draft pick last year.
“I am not the only gay person in the NFL,” Sam said Thursday. “I’m just saying there is a lot of us. 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.
“Was it a risky move? Yes. But at that moment, the reason why I came out is I thought it wasn’t going to be a big deal. Maybe I was naive. Maybe I thought it was 2014, and people will understand that there’s gay NFL players. There’s gay athletes everywhere. But I was clearly wrong. It was a huge deal.
“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.”
Sam, who spent seven weeks on the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad, spoke at the 2015 Dallas Holocaust Museum Upstander Speaker series. He gave an 11-minute prepared speech, which he said his publicist helped write, before a 35-minute Q&A.
The defensive end never got another chance in the NFL after the Cowboys released him Oct. 21. He worked out at the veterans combine over the weekend but ran a 4.99 in the 40-yard dash. He had run a 4.91 at the NFL Scouting Combine a year ago.
“Hopefully I’m not being discriminated [against] because I’m gay,” Sam said. “I don’t believe that I’m being discriminated [against] because I’m gay. I just want to know if I’m truly not in the NFL, it’s because of talent. Let it be because of my talents. But you’ve got to prove that I can’t play this game. If you look at the film, clearly I can. So, I’ll leave it at that.”
Sam, 25, has made a living as a celebrity. He has 9-1 odds to win “Dancing with the Stars Season 20,” trailing only Nastia Liukin, Rumer Willis and Riker Lynch, according to gambling website Bovada.
He cited his NFL unemployment as a reason other players haven’t come out.
“Dancing with the Stars is my employer,” Sam said. “That’s my main source of income. … I’m unemployed, and I don’t believe I’m out of the NFL because I’m gay. But if it was a reason, it can hurt their livelihood, and you don’t want to take that chance.”
Sam was adamant that all he wants to do “is to be a football player.” But he later was asked about a Google search of his name, which mentions several other things before getting to his football career.
“What,” the questioner asks, “would you rather a Google search say for you?”
“That’s a good question,” Sam said. “I don’t really Google myself. I would rather it says, ‘Michael Sam did something very historic. Michael Sam is changing history. Michael Sam is changing lives.’ I’d rather it not even say, ‘Michael Sam the football player,’ as long as it says, ‘Michael Sam is changing lives. Michael Sam is making a difference. Michael Sam is standing for others who can’t stand for themselves.’ ”
Sam, the 2014 ESPY’s winner of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award and the 2015 Human Campaign’s Upstander Award, talked of the price he has paid as a gay man.
He revealed he has not talked to his father since Michael Sam Sr. criticized his son’s lifestyle in an interview with The New York Times in February. It came shortly after Sam texted his father news of his homosexuality.
The quotes by his father, Sam said, were “unforgivable.”
“I still love him, but I can love him from afar,” he said.