There are many words that have been used to describe Michael Sam and his monumental journey to becoming the NFL’s first openly gay player. And although he’s publicly said that he doesn’t think his decision to come out in February was an act of bravery, to the people watching his journey, no other word is more befitting of Sam than courageous. And so it comes as no surprise that the NFL freshman received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at last night’s ESPY Awards.
“This year I had a lot of experience being part of something bigger than myself. At times, I felt like I’d been living in a massive storm, but the lessons learned — love, respect and being true to yourself — will never leave me,” the new St. Louis Rams star said, fighting back tears after accepting the prestigious award from wrestling star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
As Sam stood on stage, he gave an emotional acceptance speech and quoted words from Ashe that helped him understand how his life could impact others for the better.
“Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can,” he said, quoting Ashe. “Those were the words to live by, whether you’re black or white, young or old, straight or gay.
“The way I see it, my responsibility at this moment in history is to stand up for everyone out there who wants nothing to be themselves openly,” Sam said before revealing that he was asked to speak with a young woman who was considering committing suicide, rather than admitting that she was gay to her family, but was moved not to after seeing Sam come out publicly.
Sam cried as he shared with the crowd, “It’s amazing to think that by doing what we can, we can all touch, change and even save lives.”
Sam went on to thank his entire Mizzou family, his biological family, and his boyfriend, Vito Cammisano.
“Vito, people tell me that I’m their inspiration, but you are my inspiration,” said Sam as Cammisano was spotted crying in the audience.
Sam ended his speech with a message to all young people in society who feel like they are outcasts in the world.
“Please know this: great things can happen when you have the courage to be yourself,” he said.
If that doesn’t scream courageous, then we don’t know what does. And we stand by our sentiment that Sam is the epitome of courageous and worthy of walking in the footsteps of an icon like Ashe. –nicholas robinson