On Sunday night, University of Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam, who's likely to be drafted into the NFL in April, revealed that he's gay. "There will be negativity, negative reactions," he predicted in his interviw with ESPN. "I expect that. ... Everyone can say hurtful things and hateful things; I don't let stuff like that distract me. But there are going to be positives. The positives will outweigh the negative." So far there's been some grumbling from anonymous NFL sources, but football players' public reactions are encouraging. Perhaps the professional athletes who smash into each other for a living are actually tough enough to handle having a gay person on their team.
First, let's get the few somewhat negative reactions out of the way. Patrick Crayton, a former Cowboys and Chargers wide receiver who hasn't played in the NFL since 2011, spent the night arguing with people on Twitter after predicting Sams's revelation will overshadow his career – though he insisted, "Have nothing against anyone being gay. I may not get it but it's not for me to get!!!"
"@AdamSchefter: Missouri DE Michael Sam, a projected mid-round pick, said today he's gay. Story now on ESPN2." Oh wow!!! There goes the NFL!— patrick crayton (@pcrayton12) February 10, 2014
Let me break it down for everyone. A lot of people are mad because I said there goes the nFL. I say that because now this young man is— patrick crayton (@pcrayton12) February 10, 2014
To get all the wrong attention for his sexual choice and a lot of players and execs will get asked about playing with a gay guy and they are— patrick crayton (@pcrayton12) February 10, 2014
Going to have to lie about how they really feel. This young man will come in with notoriety for announcing his sexual choice more then his— patrick crayton (@pcrayton12) February 10, 2014
Ability to play the game he loves!!! This will be a major thing in football for yrs to come. So for all u guys cussing at me and calling me— patrick crayton (@pcrayton12) February 10, 2014
A bigot, ass hole or whatever, know where TF I'm coming from before u do what u hate others to do when a situation like this is announced!!— patrick crayton (@pcrayton12) February 10, 2014
As Deadspin noted, ESPN probably could have found someone better informed than former player and head coach Herm Edwards. In addition to repeatedly calling Sam "Sams," he compared him to a "player with off the field issues [...] he's bringing baggage into your locker room."
Many NFL players had a far more positive reaction.
Hats off to you Michael Sam, that takes some guts #respect— Jonathan A. Martin (@J_Martin71) February 10, 2014
Had multiple convos with @MikeSamFootball this year, amazed at his honesty & courage! Once a tiger, ALWAYS a Tiger!— Chase Daniel (@ChaseDaniel) February 10, 2014
Good for Michael Sam.. Hopefully this'll inspire others to be comfortable and proud of who they are— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) February 10, 2014
Good for Michael Sam. Takes courage for where he is in his career and where we are as a league. I applaud him.— Tom Crabtree (@itsCrab) February 10, 2014
Michael Sam isn't the 1st gay player in the NFL although he is the 1st 2 come out.#realtalk Let's show him love like a family member. Truth— DeionSanders (@DeionSanders) February 10, 2014
There is no room for bigotry in American sports. It takes courage to change the culture.— Malcolm Smith (@MalcSmitty) February 10, 2014
It appears that @Mikesamfootball is a very high character guy. Beyond athletics, this is what u need in the locker room, & on the field. -SG— steve gleason (@TeamGleason) February 10, 2014
I could care less about a man's sexual preference! i care about winning games and being respectful in the locker room!— DeAngelo Williams (@DeAngeloRB) February 10, 2014
Sam said his University of Missouri teammates, "I wouldn't have the strength to do this today if I didn't know how much support they'd given me this past semester." We got to see a bit of that on Twitter Sunday night.
Dare to be different and stand for what you believe in! Congrats to my brother @MikeSamFootball— L'Damian Washington® (@Fe_Verdadera2) February 10, 2014
We knew of his status for 5 years and not one team member, coach, or staff member said anything says a lot about our family atmosphere— Donovan Bonner (@ElTorroOcho) February 10, 2014
We are a FAMILY. And we support all of our players. Nothing changes.— Kentrell Brothers✈✈ (@Kentrell_Mizzou) February 10, 2014
Proud of My bro Mike for finally coming out man takes a tremendous amount of courage!— Donovan Bonner (@ElTorroOcho) February 10, 2014
That takes courage, congrats to him, not sure how accepting NFL teammates will be. RT @jDERO26: Missouri all-American DE announced he's gay— Chad Johnson (@ochocinco) February 10, 2014
Sam joined Twitter on Sunday night, acquiring more than 45,000 followers in just a few hours. He used his first tweets to thank everybody one more time.
Outside of the world of football, Sam has already connected with the one person who probably understands his situation better than anyone else: NBA player Jason Collins, who became the first openly gay man in a major sports league last year.
For the past 2 days I have met with @MikeSamFootball here in LA. He is a great young man who has shown tremendous courage and leadership— Jason Collins (@jasoncollins34) February 10, 2014