Michael Sam hasn’t exactly had the career that many were hoping he’d have after he came out as the first openly gay player in the NFL last year. Since then, Sam was cut by two NFL teams before journeying to Canada to sign with the Montreal Alouettes. But just as soon as his already rocky career with the Alouettes began, Sam brought it to an abrupt end when he walked away from the Canadian Football League earlier this month. Although Sam is facing a mountain of criticism over his departure, one iconic gay athlete is standing by his side.
As previously reported, after playing only one game with the Alouettes, Sam abruptly left the team, citing concerns over his mental health as his reason for leaving.
“The last 12 months have been very difficult for me, to the point where I became concerned with my mental health. Because of this I am going to step away from the game at this time. I thank the Alouettes for this opportunity and hope to be back on the field soon,” he wrote in a statement about his departure.
Since then, Sam has faced criticism for not living up to the major expectations of being the first openly gay active player in both the NFL and CFL. But former NFL star, Esera Tuaolo, who came out in 2002 after retiring from the game, is now speaking out in Sam’s defense and saying he deserves respect from the gay community.
In an interview with TMZ, Tuaolo explained that Sam deserves a lot of credit for coming out at such an early stage in his professional sports career.
“It was definitely awesome, helped kids, and I think will make it easier for more people,” Tuaolo said.
Tuaolo admits that Sam fell short of the Jackie Robinson comparisons that people placed on him.
“Jackie was incredible, he didn’t give a crap about anything else. He knew he had a gift,” said Tuaolo.
Tuaolo then explains that he tried to get in touch with Sam to give him advice about his career, but Sam never responded to him. If they would’ve talked, he would’ve told Sam, “If you’re going to be THE ONE, you have an obligation to stay focused on the goal.”
Despite the setbacks in Sam’s career, Tuaolo claims that the he can make a comeback to football if he wants to.
Obviously, Sam has endured a rough year with the career disappointments and the breakup of his engagement to Vito Cammisano. We hope he gets himself back to a healthy mental state and then makes a comeback to the world of football.