News

NFL hopeful Michael Sam comes out as gay

NFL hopeful Michael Sam comes out as gay

MICHAEL SAM: In this Jan. 1 file photo, Missouri senior defensive lineman Michael Sam speaks to the media during an NCAA college football news conference in Irving, Texas. Sam says he is gay, and he could become the first openly homosexual player in the NFL. Photo: Associated Press/Brandon Wade

By Edith Honan

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Michael Sam, a star college football player who is potentially a top prospect in the National Football League’s upcoming draft, came out as gay in a video posted on the New York Times website on Sunday, and could become the NFL’s first openly gay player.

“I’m Michael Sam. I’m a football player and I’m gay,” Sam, a defensive lineman, said in the video. “I just want to own my truth before anyone breaks a story about me.”

Even as 17 states and the federal government have moved toward expanding gay rights, including same-sex marriage, U.S. sports have been seen as lagging in its acceptance of gay and lesbian athletes.

Gay rights organizations greeted Sam’s announcement with enthusiasm. Sarah Kate Ellis, the president of GLAAD, a media advocacy organization, said Sam had “rewritten the script for countless young athletes.”

“With acceptance of (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender) people rising across our coasts – in our schools, churches, and workplaces – it’s clear that America is ready for an openly gay football star,” she said in a statement.

The NFL also released a statement on Sunday in support of Sam.

“We admire Michael Sam’s honesty and courage. Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL,” the league said in a statement on its website. “We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014.”

Sam was a defensive lineman for the University of Missouri’s Mizzou Tigers until he graduated in December.

Sam, a 6-foot, 2-inch, 260-pound pass rusher, was named Defensive Player of the Year in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) after leading the SEC with 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles for a loss, and was projected to be mid-round pick in the upcoming seven-round NFL draft.

The draft will be held May 8 to 10 at New York’s Radio City Music Hall.

Sam could not immediately be reached for comment.

In the Times video, Sam said that when he first spoke with his teammates about his sexuality last August, they rallied around him and supported him.

“Is this a huge deal? I understand that it is. But my purpose and focus right now is playing football,” he said. “I probably may be the first but I won’t be the last. And I think only good things is gonna come from this.”

Brian Ellner, a gay-rights activist and board member of the group Athlete Ally, said, “We expect the leadership at NFL teams around the country, and the league itself, to wholeheartedly embrace the change that is not only sweeping our nation in the form of law, but also defining our playing fields and culture.

“How Michael Sam is received on the professional level will go a long way in defining the NFL’s legacy,” Ellner said.

Last April, veteran basketball player Jason Collins revealed he was gay in a Sports Illustrated article. The announcement was made after the regular season, and Collins, who was nearing the end of his career, was not subsequently signed for the 2013-2014 season. Collins was the first openly gay athlete in any of North America’s four major professional sports leagues, though he never competed as an openly gay player.

Sam, should he be drafted as expected and make an NFL roster in the 2014 season, would become the first openly gay player to compete in any of North America’s four major professional sports leagues – football, baseball, basketball and hockey.

(Additional reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Eric Walsh)

Recent Headlines

in National

Amanda Knox murder conviction overturned

FILE - In this Jan. 31, 2014, file photo, Amanda Knox prepares to leave the set following a television interview in New York. Knox is engaged to Colin Sutherland, a musician who recently moved to Seattle from New York, a person close to the Knox family confirmed for The Associated Press. Knox’s murder conviction in the 2007 stabbing of her roommate has been reinstated by an Italian court, but the former college exchange student maintains her innocence and vows she won’t willingly go back to Italy. Both Knox and Sutherland are 27. No wedding date had been set.

Italy's highest court has overturned the murder conviction against Amanda Knox, bringing to a definitive end the high-profile case.

in National

Time for Iran to make tough decisions in nuclear talks

In this March 26, 2015, photo, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, center, leaves a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and other U.S. officials at a hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland. U.S. and Iranian diplomats gather at a Baroque palace in Europe, a historic nuclear agreement within reach. Over Iraq’s deserts, their militaries fight a common foe. Leaders in Washington and Tehran, capitals once a million miles from each other in ideological terms, wrestle for the first time in decades with the notion of a rapprochement.

Six world powers and Iran move closer to a deal, but there are still major disagreements.

in Sports

This week’s top sports shots

AP564917773040_12

A look at some of the biggest plays and best photos in sports this week.

in Sports

This weekend’s sports schedule

playball

A look at some of this weekend's biggest sporting events.

in National

Making headlines this week

AP193442892434_0

A look at some of the week's biggest headlines and the stories you may have missed.