NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Michael Sam says there are “a lot” of gay players in the NFL, which he’s fighting to rejoin after breaking down the barrier at last year’s draft.
On Thursday, the defensive end reiterated and expanded on comments made to Oprah Winfrey in December in which he said other pro football players have told him they’re gay too, though they’re not ready to go public.
“I am not the only gay person in the NFL,” Sam said at a Dallas Holocaust Museum Upstander Speaker event, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I’m just saying there is a lot of us. I respect the players that did reach out to me and had the courage to tell me that they were also gay, but they do not have the same courage as I do to come out before I even played a down in the NFL.”
Sam came out in Feb. 2014 and months later was selected in the final round by the St. Louis Rams coming off an SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year-winning season at Missouri. He was the first openly gay player drafted and the first to play in a preseason game.
But the NFL still hasn’t had an openly gay athlete play a snap in the regular season. Sam was released by the Rams last August, picked up for the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad and cut again.
“Was it a risky move? Yes. But at that moment, the reason why I came out is I thought it wasn’t going to be a big deal,” Sam said. “Maybe I was naive. Maybe I thought it was 2014, and people will understand that there’s gay NFL players. There’s gay athletes everywhere. But I was clearly wrong. It was a huge deal.
“The players who have reached out to me and told me about their sexual orientation, it just means a lot. But I will never say anything about who they are, what teams they are (on). I’m just saying there’s some famous people, and I’m not the only one.”
The 25-year-old recently worked out at the veterans combine in hopes of landing with a team.
“Hopefully I’m not being discriminated (against) because I’m gay,” he said. “I don’t believe that I’m being discriminated (against) because I’m gay. I just want to know if I’m truly not in the NFL, it’s because of talent. Let it be because of my talents. But you’ve got to prove that I can’t play this game. If you look at the film, clearly I can. So, I’ll leave it at that.”