Openly gay NFL hopeful Michael Sam turned the sports world on its head in the best way when he entered the NFL draft and revealed his sexuality to the world. Since then, the world has been abuzz about Sam’s chances of making the draft and how he’ll be received by teammates and coaches if he makes a team. And while there are fans on both sides who say Sam will either be accepted or rejected, a group of former NFL legends recently weighed in on the matter and are saying that Sam and any other gay player would be accepted.
According to the Huffington Post, Hall of Famers, including Lions running back Barry Sanders, Buffalo coach Marv Levy, and Giants linebacker Harry Carson, and offensive tackle Art Shell all came together with nearly 100 other inductees at a two-day “Fan Fest” recently and spoke about the prospect of Sam joining the NFL.
“I don’t think he’ll have any problem in the locker room. I don’t think he’ll have any problems on the field,” said Shell. “The one thing about football players, they’re inclusive. They will take you for who you are, not what people try to portray you as.
“It’s who you are: ‘You’re a football player, then you can play with us.’ I don’t see that as being a problem in the National Football League,” he added.
According to Sanders, football players are taught at a young age that nothing else matters except whether their teammate is a good player or not.
“From the time you’re a kid and you start playing, you’re almost programmed for ‘Can a guy play or not?’ ” he said. “By the time you get to the NFL, that’s well ingrained. I’m pretty sure every guy in this league has been around gay individuals before, and so I don’t think it will be much different.”
However, former cornerback Michael Haynes explained that Sam’s situation is unique to the times because a gay player would never have been able to come out and thrive in previous decades.
“He’s a very bold guy to come out,” said Haynes, a nine-time Pro Bowler elected to the Hall of Fame in 1997. “The timing is good. If he’d done that in the ’60s or ’70s, maybe not so good because everybody was really struggling with how to understand differences like that in people.”
“Diversity has become a critical topic, people are talking about it all the time and I think the world is different. Remember Magic Johnson with AIDS? It starts with education. He’ll be judged on football.”
Well, we certainly hope that these legends are right and that Sam’s undeniable skills on the field will the deciding factor in how he’s judged in the draft, but we also hope that his sexuality and bravery help make him an inspirational star off the field as well. –nicholas robinson