On Sunday, Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam became the NFL’s most intriguing prospect, telling ESPN and the New York Times that he is gay. The news sent a shock wave throughout the sports world, as Sam is expected to be the first openly gay athlete to play in a major sport.
Last year, ex-NBA veteran Jason Collins announced he was gay. A free agent at the time, Collins was not signed by an NBA team, leaving many to wonder if Collins, now 35, had been discriminated against.
But Sam, 24, represents a dramatic shift in the country’s attitude about gays in sports: a young player who could have a potential impact in America’s most popular sport.
Twitter was abuzz with the news yesterday, and much of the reaction was overwhelmingly positive.
Michael Sam himself thanked supporters for their encouragement:
— Michael Sam (@MikeSamFootball) February 10, 2014
A couple of Missouri Tigers tweeted they knew about Sam’s sexuality:
Our coaches and players knew all along about this and noone said anything. Just show the amount of respect we have for our family.
— Kentrell Brothers✈✈ (@Kentrell_Mizzou) 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
Embattled Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Richie Incognito chimed in:
— Richie Incognito (@68INCOGNITO) February 10, 2014
As did Jonathan Martin:
Hats off to you Michael Sam, that takes some guts #respect
— Jonathan A. Martin (@J_Martin71) February 10, 2014
Author Jeff Pearlman called Sam a “hero.”
Meet Michael Sam, my new hero. Bravo for courage. My kid will be wearing his NFL jersey, team be damned http://t.co/608jXDQxTX
— jeffpearlman (@jeffpearlman) February 10, 2014
CBS’ Pete Prisco tweeted something of an informal poll:
I asked a lot of players last summer about playing with a gay player. A handful said it would bother them. Most did not.
— Pete Prisco (@PriscoCBS) February 10, 2014
Even Prime Time says it’s time the NFL is ready for a gay athlete:
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
Jason Collins knows a little something about this announcement:
— Jason Collins (@jasoncollins34) February 10, 2014
And what’s Twitter reaction piece without Ochocinco?
That took some courage but man his draft stock is going to plummet even though it should be based on production and how he can contribute‼️
— Chad Johnson (@ochocinco) February 10, 2014