Michael Sam, the college defensive end who drew much attention of the media earlier this year by his coming out as gay, is to become the first openly gay player to play in the National Football League.
The player was picked in Saturday’s final round of the NFL Draft, by the St Louis Rams.
“The annual selection process continued with rounds four to seven, beginning with the 101st pick and concluding with the 256th. The University of Missouri Tigers star was picked 34th in the round and 249th overall,” The Guardian reports.
“As the conclusion of the three-day Draft approached, debate intensified over whether Sam’s failure to be picked earlier was due to his sexuality or his playing ability,” the publication says.
“Before he came out, Sam had been predicted by many to be taken in the third round. His stock fell after his announcement and suffered further after February’s NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, at which he was considered to have performed poorly. He was still thought to be a likely fourth- or fifth-round pick, although the noted statistician Nate Silver this week rated his chances of any selection at all at only 50-50.”
Sam made his coming out back in February. At the time, he said: “I just want to make sure I could tell my story the way I want to tell it. I just want my own truth.”
In response one former NFL coach said: “I don’t think football is ready for [an openly gay player] just yet.”
Sam told the press: “Good afternoon, my name is Michael Sam. I played football for the University of Misssouri. As you may know, Missouri is the ‘Show Me State’, and you’d think I’d shown you guys enough these last few weeks.”
When questions nonetheless focused on his decision to come out, he said: “I wish you guys would just say: ‘Hey, Michael Sam, how’s football going, how’s training going?’ I would love for you to ask me that question.”
“But it is what it is, and I just wish you guys would see me as ‘Michael Sam the football player’, instead of ‘Michael Sam the gay football player’.”
Accusations of homophobia hit American sport, with basketball player Jason Collins becoming the first openly gay NBA player only this year.
President Obama and Samantha Power, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, congratulated the 24-year-old with his brave decision to reveal himself to the world.
In a statement issued by the White House, President Obama said: “From the playing field to the corporate boardroom, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) Americans prove everyday that you should be judged by what you do and not who you are.”
He also congratulated the NFL and the St. Louis Rams.
However, there were those who demonstrated homophobic attitude towards Sam’s selection, with some Rams fans promising to boycott games.
Don Jones, a Miami Dolphins player, tweeted: “Horrible,” a post which was removed soon afterwards. He was reprimanded by his team’s head coach.
Several Rams players took to Twitter to welcome Mr Sam, however.