The campaign was launched Tuesday by NFL All Pro linebacker and 2013 Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl Champion Brendon Ayanbadejo as a reaction to backlash against Sam.
The news that former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam is gay holds significant social and cultural ramifications. But from a purely football perspective, his decision to come out prior to May’s NFL draft will make his path to the league daunting, eight NFL executives and coaches told SportsIllustrated.com. In blunt terms, SI says that the insiders project a significant drop in “Sam’s draft stock, a publicity circus and an NFL locker room culture not prepared to deal with an openly gay player.”
The Southeastern Conference (SEC) Defensive Player of the Year was expected to be a mid- to late-round draft pick prior to his announcement. He helped lead his team to a 12-2 season record and a Cotton Bowl win.
“Michael’s announcement is huge. While there’s been a strong show of support for him by the NFL, his Missouri teammates and coaches, and fans, there is also speculation that the NFL isn’t ready for a gay player. I don’t believe that’s the case. What Michael needs now is to hear the support of fans across the country and the world.” says Ayanbadejo in response to the negative comments and projections.
Ayanbadejo is a member of the Board of Directors for Athlete Ally, a non-profit organization that educates and empowers the athletic community to take a stand against homophobia and transphobia in sports. Athlete Ally works with the NFL and NFL Players Association on player awareness and sensitivity on LGBT issues, as well as with the MLB, NBA, and NBPA on player development and LGBT inclusion.
Joining Athlete Ally’s campaign rally is the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), a civil rights organization dedicated to empowering Black lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. NBJC’s mission is to end racism and homophobia.
“Michael Sam has made a historic and courageous decision to live his authentic truth for the world to see,” says Sharon Lettman-Hicks, Executive Director and CEO of NBJC. “Sam continues the tradition of breaking down barriers for not only LGBT athletes who dream of playing professional sports, but all LGBT people, young and old, who seek to live openly, honestly and safely in their neighborhoods and communities. NBJC is proud to join with Athlete Ally to support Michael Sam and begin the conversation around LGBT athletes in sports and how we can collectively work towards making sports safe for all.”