EL PASO — To his dad, he is one who will have “many hurdles to cross”. To his University of Missouri teammates and coaches, he is first-team all-American and Associated Press defensive player of the year in the SEC. To athletes and sports affiliates he is a “courageous young man” and a football player. To some though, he is the gay football player.
He is Michael Sam.
In early February, Sam announced publically that he was gay. The spotlight shined on him and the attention he received was nonstop. The reactions were mostly positive and supportive but there were also some negative ones.
In an article by Sports Illustrated, eight NFL personnel members and scouts gave their opinion on Michael Sam’s decision to announce of his sexual orientation. They collectively shared that in the NFL culture today, an openly gay player will struggle.
ESPN conducted an anonymous survey of 51 NFL players asking them true-false questions about a potential teammate’s sexual orientation. Of those surveyed, 44 answered “false” when asked if a player’s sexual orientation mattered. Seven answered “true.”
When asked if an openly gay player would be comfortable in an NFL locker room, 25 answered “true,” while 21 answered “false.” Five didn’t answer.
Former University of Texas at El Paso football player, Germard Reed, says that he has no problem with gay athletes, but he didn’t think Michael Sam did the right thing because he will be looked upon differently.
The positive that Sam will get out of it, Reed said, was that he will feel better for not holding it in.
UTEP linebacker, AJ Ropati said he was “a little surprised” when Michael Sam announced that he was gay.
“It’s their life. I’m not the one to tell anybody what they can or cannot do,” Ropati said. “I was a little surprised because he was co-defensive conference player of the year in the SEC.”
Ropati added that being a gay athlete is probably something that is not normal in the lifestyle of a college or professional athlete.
“I think he got more attention on it, because he was probably the first to come out,” he added. “The attention he is getting now is either going to benefit him or bite him in the butt.”
Ropati said that he doesn’t have a view on gay athletes, but Sam will probably get negative criticism just because he is gay. He also said that Sam will be either looked down upon or that he will be praised. “It all depends on the fan base, which organization that picks him up.”
One UTEP football player, who wished to remain anonymous, said that Michael Sam did the right thing in announcing publically that he was gay.
“I feel like he did the right thing, because I feel he should let them know beforehand, before he gets in the locker room so the players can welcome him with open arms instead of treating him differently.”
The football player added that his reaction would not change if a teammate of his told him that he was gay. “I would treat him the same way, as I’ve been treating him before I knew he was gay. He’s still my teammate.”
He also said that there are some people who views Sam’s announcement as a publicity stunt. He doesn’t view it that way, but the fact he is going into the NFL, he said, that’s why Sam got so much media attention.
“If he was just a regular person, probably half of us wouldn’t even know that he was gay.”