Michael Sam First Gay Player Drafted by NFL

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The NFL draft was in a 4th down situation, with only seven picks left, when the St. Louis Rams chose Michael Sam, the first openly gay man ever selected to play professional football.

Professional sports have lagged behind when it comes to rebuffing homophobia, but Sam got plenty of support from veterans of the game.

“Congrats to @MikeSamFootball on becoming a @STLouisRams. Welcome to the #Rams family,” tweeted Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson, once the star running back for the LA Rams.

Some offered encouragemnt before the selection, including broadcaster and former top player Deion Sanders: “Some team needs to Draft Michael Sam and be real the kid can play!”

No word yet from former Rams quarterback Kurt Warner, a devout Christian, although he was commenting earlier in the draft: Kurt Warner ‏‪@kurt13warner 23h I’m liking what the ‪@STLouisRams are doing in this draft!

For those who ask, why Sam didn’t “just shut up about it and play football?”

“I didn’t want anyone to break a story … without me telling it. I wanted to tell it the way I wanted to tell it,” said the All-American athlete to the New York Times.

As the laws and mentality throughout the country changes—whether it’s regarding gays, bullying (ie the Miami Dolphins scandal) or the NBA banning Clippers owner Donald Sterling, attitudes are quickly changing, and Sam’s selection makes a huge statement.

“Without a doubt, this is a game changer,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD president/CEO. “Today, Michael Sam has redefined what it takes to be a champion. He’s tackled stereotypes and joins the ranks of athletic trailblazers like Jason Collins and Brittney Griner in showing Americans that there’s no place for homophobia on the field.”

“Today, LGBT young people can look to Sam as proof that being open and proud of who you are doesn’t keep you from achieving your dreams,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “Gay people are our neighbors and friends. They’re our United States Senators and, starting today, they’re our professional football stars.”

Previously, Ellis had talked about the challenges that Sam faced in USA Today: “There has been a lot of talk about the locker room, and I think that’s a reliance on an outdated stereotype. I remember hearing that argument [for] ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and we can see now first-hand that gay service members who can serve openly are only helping the military and it hasn’t been an issue.”

“I knew I was going to get picked somewhere,” Sam said after the draft. “Every team that passed me, I was thinking how I’m going to sack their quarterback.”

Spoken like a true competitor.

Journalist Laurie Schenden covers the entertainment industry, with many of her notable celebrity interviews appearing in the Los Angeles Times and other national and international publications. As a longtime columnist and feature writer for the LA Times, she also covered events and California destinations for the lifestyle, Outdoors and Travel sections. Laurie Schenden's international pieces include the long-running Where Are They Now celebrity feature for Spotlight Magazine, published in five languages. Laurie has also contributed to numerous documentary films, and produces content via Saving Grace Films.

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