“Coming out” has been coined as America’s term for publicly displaying your sexual preference. There are only two reactions that one can expect when making this announcement: acceptance or rejection. In men’s athletics, this can either be a burden released or a controversy unleashed.
When University of Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam came out for the first time publicly about his sexual orientation, a huge weight must have been lifted off of his broad shoulders. Sam is projected to be an early-round pick for the NFL draft, which begins May 8. If chosen, he will be the first publicly gay NFL player. He came out to teammates in August and received a very welcoming response.
Matthew Bennett, a Virginia Tech graduate student originally from Columbia, Mo., said in an interview that he had a brief encounter with Michael Sam at the only gay bar in Columbia about two years ago. Bennett, who identifies as a gay man, was out with some girls when Sam and one of his friends followed them out to their car. Bennett immediately thought that Sam and his friend were trying to get the ladies’ attention. However, it was just the opposite: Bennett and Sam exchanged numbers but never got the chance to hang out. It wasn’t until later that he found out that Sam was a NFL prospect football player for the University of Missouri.
“Coming out is different for everyone,” Bennett said. “I hope he did what was right for him. Everyone navigates the coming-out process differently, and even if there is a ‘right time’ to do it, it’s still nerve-wracking and emotional. When someone is brave enough to come out in a realm dominated by strict hypermasculinity, that’s huge news.”
Three Syracuse University football players responded to questions about their reaction to Sam’s announcement:
“We all have our own quirks and being gay won’t make us turn our backs on him. He is an awesome player no matter his sexuality.“
“I consider all my teammates brothers and no matter what I will love my brother. There has to be a level of maturity in this profession. As long as that guy is doing his job, then I am able to do my job. I applaud Michael Sam for being so honest and open.”
sophomore, defensive lineman,
“The football team at Syracuse isn’t your typical team. It’s a family. I can’t speak highly enough of the support system surrounding each individual in the Syracuse football program, and in no way should anyone have to hide who they are in regards to thinking their teammates and coaches will look down on them, whether that be at Syracuse or on any other team.”
junior, wide receiver,
Port Huron, Mich.
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