Michael Sam’s recent public announcement that he was a gay athlete took incredible courage. At the age of 24, Sam’s life has been full of travesties and hardships. He himself has said his family life hasn’t been an easy one, as he’s lost both brothers and sisters due to death and jail. As a young man whose been forced to grow up fast, Sam’s toughness will never be put into question. His self-awareness and confidence is nothing short of inspiring. He’s a role model for not only other gay athletes but for people in general.
Now, was his coming out announcement good for his NFL career? Absolutely.
Not all NFL teams are equipped to handle the situation properly. Not that they’re against his sexual orientation (as no one should be) but because they’re not ready for the media circus that’s going to come along with it. Let’s not kid ourselves, Michael Sam is slated to be a 3rd or 4th round pick but the media’s going to treat him like the first pick in the draft. He’d be the first public gay football player in NFL history. You may not think it’s a big deal, but it is.
With the less established public relation-savvy NFL teams out of contention, that opens up the likelihood of Sam being drafted by a good NFL team. With the current NFL collective bargaining agreement in place, unless you’re a top 10 pick, you’re not going to get a big money contract. Considering most scouts don’t even consider Sam to be a first-round caliber talent, he’s much better off being drafted by a good team with good management in place. Surrounding himself with a great coach and locker room will not only make Sam more comfortable, but it’ll limit his distractions and allow him to focus on his task at hand – being a defensive force.
If everything works out the way it should, Sam’s announcement should be the catalyst other gay athletes were waiting for, enabling them to come out as well. It takes an incredibly strong person to do what Michael Sam did. He won’t be the last, but he’ll certainly always be remembered as the first.